The Rights of Grandparents

Do grandparents have visitation and other rights in Arizona?   

Given the changes in the nature of contemporary families, grandparents often play a crucial role in raising and caring for their grandchildren. As such, questions over visitation and custody are becoming more common.  In Arizona, the state created a legal right to visitation for grandparents back in 1983, and the law also recognizes their custody and adoption rights.

Grandparents’ Visitation Rights

 If the court determines it is in the best interest of the child, grandparents (and great grandparents) are allowed to petition for visitation rights. The court will consider visitation rights if (i) the child’s parents have been divorced for at least 3 months, (ii) one of the parents has been deceased or missing for at last months, or (iii) the parents were never married. Grandparents can petition the court for visitation rights as part of a divorce or paternity proceeding, or else seek these rights in a separate action.

Best Interest of the Child

Under Arizona law, there are a number of factors in determining what is in the best interest of the child. Of primary importance is the relationship between the child and the grandparent, and the value of continuing that relationship. It is also necessary to ascertain the grandparents motivation as well as the reasons why the parent might be denying visitation. The court will also consider how much visitation time the grandparents are seeking, and what affect this will have on the child. Lastly, in cases where one or both parents are deceased, the court will weigh the value of maintaining visitation with the grandparents.

Other factors the court will consider in determining grandparents’ visitation rights include the age and preference of the child, the relationship between the parent and the child, as well as the mental and physical health of the child, parent and grandparents.

Adoption Rights
Arizona’s adoption laws give grandparents the right to adopt as well, provided that they meet the legal requirements. The first step is for the grandparents is to seek temporary custody which will be granted if the grandparents can demonstrate that they are providing for all or some of the child’s care. The court will also consider a number of other factors, particularly whether it will be detrimental to the child for the parent to retain custody.

Moreover, one of the following conditions is necessary: (i) the child’s parents have never been married or (ii) the parents are divorcing or separating or (iii) one of the parents is deceased.  Lastly, the court will base its decision on whether to grant an adoption on what is in the best interests if the child. Because the court presumes it is in the child’s best interest to remain with the parent, the grandparent must be able to clearly prove that it will be detrimental to the child to remain in the parent’s custody.

In short, while grandparents have visitation, custody and adoption rights in Arizona, these rights are limited, and the court will always put the best interest of the child first. A grandparent who is seeking visitation or any rights concerning their grandchildren is well advised to speak to an experienced family law attorney.