In Arizona, a grandparent may obtain legal visitation rights if the child’s parents were never married or have been divorced for at least three months, or if one parent has been deceased or missing for at least three months.
A court may grant visitation rights to grandparents and great-grandparents when it is in the best interest of the child to do so. A court will consider every relevant factor regarding what is in the best interests of the child, which includes:
- The relationship history between the child and the person seeking visitation
- The reason why the grandparent or great-grandparent is seeking visitation rights
- Why the parent does not wish to have grandparents obtain visitation rights
- How much visitation time the grandparent requested and whether that will affect the child’s customary activities
- If one or both of the child’s parents are dead, the benefit in continuing the relationship with the grandparent
Ideally, the visitation rights for grandparents and great-grandparents will occur when the child is living with or spending time with the parent who is related to the grandparent seeking visitation.
A grandparent or great-grandparent can also obtain custody of the grandchild. However, making a case for custody is more difficult than seeking visitation rights. The grandparent (or any third party, such as a stepparent) must show:
- He or she is already acting “in loco parentis,” which is Latin for “in the place of the parent.”
- It would be detrimental to the child to remain in the custody of either parent.
- There has not been a court order granting custody within the past year, unless the child is seriously endangered by the current custody arrangement.
- One parent is deceased, or the parents are unmarried or currently in the process of legally dissolving the marriage.
Grandparents, like parents, generally have the legal right to play an active role in the lives of their grandchildren. If you would like to petition for visitation or custody of a grandchild or great-grandchild, contact an experienced family law attorney to discuss your situation.