grandparents with grandkids

A Legal Perspective on Grandparents’ Rights in Custody Battles

Grandparents often play a significant role in the care, support, and even the upbringing of their grandchildren. Child custody is often thought of as being between only the child’s parents. However, there are cases in which grandparents may have the right to intervene and exercise visitation or even custodial rights over the child. If you are a grandparent and have a concern over whether your grandchild’s parents are best suited to care for him or her, it’s worth exploring your legal options. Cohen Family Law can guide you and explain how grandparents’ rights work in Arizona.

Can grandparents seek visitation rights with their grandchildren?

Arizona law allows grandparents to seek visitation rights with their grandchildren under limited circumstances. For example, if one of the following applies, the grandparents may be able to petition for visiting rights:

  • The child’s parents have been divorced for a period of at least three months
  • A parent of the child has been dead or missing for at least three months
  • The child was born out of wedlock and the parents are unmarried when the petition is filed

The grandparents can request visitation rights but they are not guaranteed. As with all custody matters, the court will still need to determine whether granting visitation of the children to their grandparents is in the children’s best interests. Some factors the judge may consider are:

  • The relationship between the child and the grandparents
  • The grandparents’ motivation for seeking visitation
  • The motivation of the child’s parents (or other person) for denying visitation
  • The amount of visitation time requested and whether it will negatively affect the child’s customary activities and routines
  • The benefit to the child in maintaining an extended family relationship, if one or both of the child’s parents are no longer living

Can grandparents seek custody of their grandchildren?

Visitation with their grandchildren is what grandparents typically seek, but there are cases in which the grandparents may want to have sole or joint custody of their grandchildren, or the right to exercise legal decision-making authority over them. Under Arizona law, this is possible if all of the following are true:

  • The grandparents filing the petition stand in loco parentis to the child (meaning, they stand in the shoes of or act as though they are the parents)
  • It would be significantly harmful to the child to remain or be placed in the care of either legal parent who wishes to keep or acquire legal decision-making
  • A family law court has not entered or approved an order concerning legal decision-making or parenting time within one year prior to the grandparent filing a petition for custody, unless there is reason to believe the child’s current environment may seriously jeopardize the child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health
  • One of the following applies:
  1. One of the child’s legal parents has died
  2. The child’s legal parents are not married to each other at the time the grandparents’ petition is filed
  3. A divorce proceeding or a proceeding for legal separation of the child’s parents is pending at the time the grandparents’ petition is filed

Are You A Grandparent Concerned About Your Grandchild’s Well-Being? Turn To Us

Courts generally prefer to keep children with their natural parents, so a grandparent wanting visitation or custody rights will need to overcome the presumption that exists in favor of this. Our firm can help you do so. If you are worried about your grandchildren and want to find out more about your rights as a grandparent, give Cohen Family Law a call today.