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How Can Grandparents in Arizona Legally Secure Visitation Rights with Their Grandchildren?

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Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights with Their Grandchildren in Arizona?

The idea of being separated from their grandchildren is a terrifying one for grandparents. However, when the parents of the grandchildren separate or divorce, there are times when one or the other parent will try to withhold contact from the grandparents. An example would be a mother who is the grandparents’ daughter-in-law. She might be awarded physical custody (known as parenting time) and decide she doesn’t want to have contact with her ex’s parents. This can make a sad situation even more difficult. 

In Arizona, grandparents have the right to petition the court for visitation rights if at least one of the following situations applies.

  • The parents divorced at least three months earlier, and the grandparents are the parents of the spouse who doesn’t have physical custody of the grandchildren.
  • The grandchildren’s parents never married.
  • One of the grandchild’s parents is dead or has been missing a minimum of three months, and that’s the grandparents’ child.

However, satisfying one of those requirements doesn’t guarantee that visitation will be granted. The court’s primary consideration is what it deems to be in the child’s best interests. Note that if the grandchild’s parents are married and jointly withhold visitation from the grandparents, the court won’t allow the grandparents to petition for visitation. 

Suppose the grandchild has been moved into placement for adoption or has already been completed with someone other than a family member. In that case, the process automatically terminates the grandparents’ rights to visitation. However, if the child is removed from the adoption process or adopted by the spouse of a natural parent after the natural parent remarries, visitation may be a possibility. 

How Does the Court Determine if Grandparent Visitation Is in the Grandchild’s Best Interests?

The court considers many things when trying to understand what’s in the child’s best interests. When it comes to visitation with grandparents, the following are just some of the aspects they’ll explore.

  • Why the parent denying the grandparents visitation is doing so (for example, if there are allegations that the grandparents are abusive or neglectful, the court may determine that the parent is acting appropriately)
  • The relationship the grandparents have previously had with the grandchild (did they spend time with the grandchild, and how they got along)
  • Why the grandparents want to have visitation rights (is it for the benefit of the grandchild, or is there another dynamic at play with the grandchild’s parents)
  • The ability of the grandchild to have extended family relationships if one of the grandchild’s parents is dead
  • Any impact the visitation has on the child’s daily activities and overall life (as in, how much time are the grandparents asking for and will it negatively impact the child’s schoolwork, extracurriculars, time with friends, etc.)

It’s worth noting that requesting visitation isn’t just for grandparents but also for great-grandparents, stepparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even friends. It’s equally important to understand that being granted visitation does not mean the grandparents (or others granted visitation) have any rights to make major decisions on behalf of the child. Those rights remain with the parents. 

What Is the Process to Petition for Grandparent Visitation in Arizona?

There are several steps to this process. Remember that the court will always view any petition through the lens of the child’s best interests. If the grandparents can’t adequately demonstrate that visitation meets that requirement, they may not be allowed to have visitation. Because this can be a fraught and complex process, it’s highly recommended that grandparents work with an experienced family law attorney.

Every visitation case is unique, just as every family is unique. Many factors affect how these cases may proceed, including where the grandparents live, where the grandchildren live (which must be a minimum of six months in Arizona before the grandparents can file the visitation petition), whether the parents are divorced or legally separated, or whether there are allegations of neglect or abuse from any party in the petition. It’s possible to apply for a temporary order for visitation. On occasion, those become permanent, but it’s not guaranteed.

What Should We Expect if Visitation Rights Are Granted or Denied?

The court will provide explicit details about the visitation rights assigned in each case. That will include how often they may meet, the length of visits, if overnight visits are allowed, if visits need to be supervised by a third party, and possibly other requirements. Following those requirements is crucial to maintaining visitation rights. If grandparents ignore them, the parents could appeal the visitation to the court, and the grandparents could lose those rights.

If the court denies visitation rights, it’s possible that the grandchild’s parents will allow some form of visitation so the grandparent-grandchild relationship can continue. The grandparents may negotiate with the parents or bring in a mediator to arrive at a compromise. However, the court ruling means the grandparents don’t have the legal right to visitation.

What Should We Do if We Need Help with Grandparents’ Rights?

Call the Turner Law Firm as soon as possible at 480-618-1221 to set up a consultation. We understand how stressful and traumatic it is to lose precious time with your grandchildren. We’ll go through the specifics of your case to see if Arizona’s grandparents’ rights laws may help you. Our team of experienced, knowledgeable family law attorneys will do everything they can to help you receive the best possible outcomes.

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