Grandparents’ Rights in Arizona

Q: Can grandparents sue for visitation rights?

If you’re getting divorced in Arizona, there are many issues to work out when going from “I do” to “I’m done”.

In addition to dividing up the marital property and debt and determining whether one spouse will pay alimony to the other, couples who share children also need to work out child custody and visitation.

Child custody and visitation is referred to as legal decision-making and parenting time in Arizona. Legal decision-making refers to the parents’ right to make important legal decisions on behalf of their children including matters such as healthcare, education, religion, and more. Parenting time is the time the child will physically spend in the custody of that parent. Courts generally consider the best interest of the child when determining legal decision-making and parenting time in cases where the parents can’t come to an agreement on their own.

What happens to the grandparents in a divorce?

Grandparents rights attorneys in Arizona know that life after divorce can sometimes be very different for grandparents. There is a special bond between many grandparents and grandchildren and no doubt many grandparents’ hearts are broken watching the pain that their adult children and grandchildren go through during a divorce. Sometimes, grandparents get shut out of their grandchildren’s lives when their adult children divorce.

Do grandparents have rights to sue for visitation?

Absent circumstances to indicate otherwise, the courts generally feel it’s in the children’s best interest when their parents share in legal decision-making and parenting time. Parents have the right to make important decisions on behalf of their children – even if that decision cuts them out of a grandparent’s life.

That said, brokenhearted grandparents can pursue a court order for visitation in Arizona.

Under what circumstances may grandparent visitation rights be granted?

If any of the three following circumstances exist, the Arizona Superior Court has discretion to grant grandparent visitation rights if doing so would be in the child’s best interest:

  • the parents have been divorced for at least three months
  • the parent has been deceased or missing for at least three months
  • the child was born out of wedlock.

In some cases, grandparents can even be awarded custody of their grandchildren. Some of those circumstances include:

  • both parents being found unfit
  • both parents consenting to giving grandparents custody
  • drug or alcohol abuse in the home
  • child abuse or neglect in the home
  • mental illness, addiction, incarceration or abusive behavior by one parent where the other is unable to support the child.

While it can be agonizing to be cut off from a grandchild, especially when they are going through the turmoil of their parents’ divorce, grandparents should realize that pursuing visitation rights can come at a cost including: the financial costs of litigation, the loss of privacy when testifying as to family relationships in court, and putting pressure and guilt on the grandchildren who may feel divided between their parents and grandparents.

If you would like to explore pursuing grandparents’ visitation rights or custody, grandparents’ rights attorney