Grandparents Rights for Custody & Visitation in Arizona
Under Arizona law, grandparents may need to seek custody of their grandchildren or adopt them in certain circumstances. In other circumstances, the children’s parents may block grandparents from visiting their grandchildren. All of these circumstances will almost certainly necessitate the assistance of an expert Arizona family law attorney.
Even if a parent objects, Arizona law permits grandparents to seek visitation rights with their grandchildren.
A family law attorney at the law firm of Colburn Hintze Maletta has expertise in managing grandparents’ rights disputes and can explain your choices based on the facts of your case.
Visitation Rights for Grandparents in Arizona
When a grandparent petitions for visitation rights with a grandchild under this Act, the court may approve the petition if it determines that visitation with the grandparent is in the child’s best interests and any of the following conditions are met:
- One of the children’s parents has died or has been gone for three months or longer.
- The child’s parents are unmarried, and the child was born out of wedlock.
- The parents of the child have been divorced for three months or longer.
- If the grandparent has acted in loco parentis for the grandchild, the child’s parents must be going through a divorce or legal separation.
The court must then determine that visitation is in the best interests of the child.
The following elements must be considered by the court in making this determination:
- The child’s previous connection with the grandparent.
- The reason for the grandparents’ request for visititation rights.
- The reasons of the parent who is refusing the grandparents’ visits.
- Visitation time sought, as well as the possible detrimental influence on the child’s usual activities.
- Whether there is an advantage to keeping a child’s bond with his or her extended family when a parent dies.
Arizona understands that grandparents may have a significant impact on their grandchildren’s lives. In many homes, grandparents often have particular bonds with their grandchildren. When a parent restricts a grandparent from visiting their child, it may be extremely difficult for both the child and the grandparent.
If a court decides that approving grandparent visitation rights is acceptable, the visitation periods will be ordered to occur when the child sees the parent who is that grandparent’s relative.
If that parent is no longer alive, the court may order that visitation take place when the deceased parent would have had visitation time with the child.
Proving that a parent died or that the parents divorced before the grandparent filed a visitation petition will be simple. It becomes more difficult, however, when the parent with custody of the child opposes the grandparent’s petition for visitation.
Colburn Hintze Maletta may assist grandparents in gathering evidence and presenting it in a way that supports the grounds for requesting visitation and demonstrates that getting visitation is in the child’s best interests.
How a Visitation Rights Petition Works?
If the child’s parents divorced or had a paternity determination, the grandparents must submit a petition for visitation in the preceding action. If no previous court case has been filed, the petition can be filed as a separate action in the county where the child resides.
If the child is put up for adoption outside of the household, any grandparent visits will be terminated unless the grandparent petitioned for adoption or the adoption petition was filed by a stepparent.
Following the filing of the petition, the grandparents must serve copies of the petition and the affidavits filed to all of the following parties:
- The parent or parents of the child;
- Any party with legal decision-making authority over the child or visitation rights;
- The guardian ad litem for the child or the child’s guardian if no one has been appointed;
- A person or organization that has physical custody of the child or claims decision-making power or visitation rights;
- A prior agency or individual that appeared in the initial action.
The parties who have been served will be able to file objections to the grandparents’ petition. If they object, the court will hold a hearing and review the evidence and make a decision.
Custody Rights of Grandparents
When a child’s parents are deemed unsuitable, the child’s grandparents may petition the court for decision-making power over their grandchildren in order to gain legal physical custody.
The court will refuse this sort of petition unless all of the following conditions are met:
- The grandparents are acting as the child’s legal guardians.
- It would be detrimental if the child were placed in the care of the parent who is demanding custody.
- The court has not granted an order for legal decision-making authority within a year, unless the child’s existing environment puts him or her in danger of emotional, moral, bodily, or mental damage.
- A parent of the child has died, the child’s parents are unmarried, or the parents are in the process of a divorce.
The petition for grandparent custody and legal decision-making authority will be refused if the court does not deem these elements to exist.
A grandparent, acting in loco parentis, takes on the role of a parent for the child. When a grandparent seeks legal decision-making power over a child, there is a rebuttable presumption that the child should be put in the custody of his or her parents.
To overcome this assumption, you must provide clear and persuasive evidence that placing the child in the custody of his or her parents is not in the child’s best interests. This will necessitate proof demonstrating that your grandchild’s physical, moral, mental, or emotional well-being would be jeopardized if the court put the child in the custody of the parent or permitted him or her to continue living with the parent.
If you wish to pursue custody of your grandchildren, an attorney at Colburn Hintze Maletta may review the facts you have concerning their situation.
Their knowledgeable and experienced family law attorneys can tell you if your petition for custody and legal decision-making authority over your grandchild is likely to succeed.
Adoption Rights of Grandparents
If your grandchild has been adopted, any visitation rights you have will be terminated. However, if the person filing the petition to adopt your grandchild is your grandchild’s stepparent, and the stepparent is married to the child’s parent, your visits will not be terminated.
Moreover, if the state places a child for adoption, your visiting rights will be terminated immediately. If the child is later removed from the adoptive family, the court may reinstate your visitation rights.
Under ARS 8-103, any adult in Arizona can petition the court to adopt a child, even the child’s grandparents.
If you have previously petitioned for legal decision-making authority and the parental rights of your grandchild’s parents have been terminated, you are eligible to file for adoption. A court order allowing you temporary custody of your grandchild is required.
Additionally, adoption preference is granted to the grandparents of children protected under the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Grandparents Rights for Children Taken Out of State
If you are given visitation rights with your grandchild and the grandchild’s parent intends to relocate with the grandchild out of state, you may wonder if you can stop the relocation.
The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in Sheehan v. Flower, 217 Ariz. 39 (App. 2007), that grandparents with visitation rights cannot prevent a parent with legal custody of a child from relocating to another state.
In that case, the grandmother used ARS 25-408 to challenge the relocation. The court, however, ruled that the provision did not apply to grandparents.
However, with the help of the legal team at Colburn Hintze Maletta, there may be a considerable amount of options available.
Speak to an Arizona Grandparents Rights Lawyer Today
In Arizona, obtaining rights as a grandparent might be challenging. If you are being denied access to your grandchild or feel you should be granted custody due to the unfitness of the child’s parent, contact a family law attorney at Colburn Hintze Maletta.
Call (602) 825-2500 immediately to book a free, no-obligation consultation with a qualified Arizona grandparents rights attorney.
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