When families break apart, divorcing spouses and children are not the only parties affected. Grandparents are often an integral part of the family too, and grandparents are afforded limited legal rights in Arizona family law.
In 1983, Arizona amended its statutes to afford legal visitation rights to grandparents. Arizona Revised Statutes § 25-409 grants reasonable visitation rights to to a grandparent during a child’s minority years based on a “best interests of the child” standard.
In addition to the best interests standard, one of the following criteria must also apply as well:
- it has been at least three months since the grandchild’s parents have been divorced
- the parents were not married at the time of the grandchild’s birth
- one or both of the parents has been deceased or “missing” for three months or greater (“missing” is defined as an official declaration from law enforcement or an unknown parental location)
When determining what is in the child’s best interests, Arizona family law courts can use a broad range of factors, including five factors pertaining to family specifics. The motivation of grandparents seeking visitation as well as the motivation of parents seeking to deny visitation will be considered. Additionally, the historical relationship between the grandparent and the child is considered, as well as the amount of visitation being sought by the grandparent. Finally, the court will consider whether there is a benefit to maintaining visitation with extended family when one or both parents are dead.
One unique aspect of Arizona family law worth mentioning is that great-grandparents are afforded the same legal rights as grandparents. The exact same criteria applicable to grandparents is applied in the case of great-grandparents as well.
Custody Rights and Adoption
To petition for custody within the Arizona family law system, grandparents must meet conditions outlined under ARS §25-415.
First, a grandparent must be able to act as a parent by providing all or at least some of a child’s care. Further, it must be harmful to the child’s best interests to remain in the parent’s custody, and a custody determination must not have been made within the past year (an exception is made when there is a threat of harm to the child). Finally, the child’s legal parents must have never been married, must be getting separated or one or both parents must be deceased.
Grandparents in Arizona are also afforded legal adoption rights. In most cases, a grandparent should seek temporary custody first while the adoption process is underway, but an experienced Arizona family law firm will be able to help guide you through this process.
Grandparents also have the right to adopt a grandchild, so long as they meet the requirements under Arizona’s adoption laws. Generally, the grandparent will seek temporary custody of the child first, if they do not already have it, while the adoption is pending. If another party has already adopted the child, however, grandparent visitation rights can be terminated.
To learn more, contact our experienced Arizona family law firm to learn more about your legal rights as a grandparent in the state of Arizona. At May, Potenza, Baran & Gillespie, we are here to help.
When you enlist the services of MPBG, you get an experienced, diverse team of advocates in your corner who work collaboratively, move quickly, and think differently.