Grandparents Rights in Arizona (Updated for 2020)
Grandparents Rights in AZ
Families can be challenging and complex, and under certain circumstances, grandparents may find themselves told they are no longer welcome to visit their grandchildren or be part of their lives. However, if you are a grandparent in the state of Arizona, you have several legal rights with respect to your grandchildren. Learn more about your rights and legal options regarding your grandchildren.
This guide to grandparents’ rights in Arizona includes the following:
- Laws Regarding Grandparents’ Rights in Arizona
- Determining the Best Interest of the Child
- Petitioning for Visitation as a Grandparent in Arizona
- Petitioning for Full-Custody of Grandchildren in Arizona by Grandparents
- Grandparents’ Rights Following an Adoption
- Pursuing Your Grandparents’ Rights in Arizona
Laws Regarding Grandparents’ Rights in Arizona
There are several laws and court cases that directly deal with grandparents’ rights in Arizona to visit their grandchildren, even over the objections of a parent.
Supreme Court of Arizona Rulings Regarding Grandparents’ Rights in Arizona
The Arizona Supreme Court in the case of Goodman v. Forsen, in 2016, determined that the parents of a child have the controlling legal rights to make decisions regarding their children, including visitation from grandparents. However, in 2018, the Supreme Court of Arizona revisited this issue in Friedman v. Roels and determined that the “best interest of the child” is actually paramount to the parent’s wishes regarding grandparents’ rights to visitation of their grandchildren. Specifically, when two parents disagree regarding whether or not grandparents’ should have the ability to visit their grandchildren, the “best interest of the child” standard will be the basis upon which a court in Arizona will make their decision.
Laws Regarding Grandparents’ Rights in Arizona
There are statutory provisions and laws within the state of Arizona that allow grandparents to have visitation rights, even over a parent’s objection. In order to establish that a grandparent has the right to visitation to their grandchildren over a parent’s objections, the grandparent must prove the following:
- The parent is not acting in the “best interest of the child” by preventing grandparent visitation.
- Grandparent visitation is in the “best interest of the child” according to the preponderance of the evidence.
Additionally, Arizona Revised Statute §25-409 entitled Visitation Rights of Grandparents and Great-Grandparents states that the court will find that it is in the “best interest of the child” if any of the following are true:
- The marriage of the parents of the child has been dissolved for a minimum of three months; or
- One parent of the child is missing for three months or deceased; or
- The child was born out of wedlock.
If a grandparent can prove to the court that it is truly in the “best interest of the child” that they are allowed visitation, they will have the legal right to visit their grandchildren, even against the parent’s wishes.
Determining the Best Interest of the Child
Determining what is in the “best interest of the child” is a complex and challenging standard to meet. It is an inherently subjective one, and determinations regarding this standard are often based on the facts and circumstances involved in every specific case. However, the courts in Arizona (as well as throughout the United States) have made it a priority to ensure that their goal is to always place the child’s best interest above all else. Some of the factors that a court may use to make a determination regarding a child’s best interest may include the following:
- The historical relationship between the grandparents and the child (i.e. have the grandparents seen the child a few times every week for the past ten years, or have they only seen the child once in the last five years, etc.).
- The motivation of the grandparents to see the grandchild.
- The motivation of the parent attempting to deny the grandparents visitation to the grandchild (i.e. is the parent angry at their ex-spouse, and therefore attempting to pushing the ex-spouse and his/her family by denying visitation out of spite, or is it because the grandparents consistently talk negatively about the parent denying visitation, etc.).
- The quantity of time the grandparents are requesting with respect to visitation with a grandchild, and will this time negatively impact any of the child’s typical or customary activities.
- If both parents are deceased, the court will determine if it is in the child’s best interest to continue to maintain a relationship with the grandparents.
Petitioning for Visitation as a Grandparent in Arizona
A petition for visitation and grandparents’ rights can occur in either the same legal action as dissolution of marriage or in the same legal action in which a court determines either paternity or maternity. Additionally, a petition for visitation as a grandparent in Arizona can be done through a separate action in the county in which the child resides, or if the court that dissolved the marriage or determined maternity/paternity no longer has jurisdiction.
Filing a petition for visitation as a grandparent can be a legally complex and challenging matter, and a grandparent must prove that it is truly in the “best interest of the child” that they maintain a relationship with their grandchild over the objections of a parent. Additionally, it is important to note that if grandparent visitation is granted, the court will typically allow that grandparent visitation to occur when the child spends time or resides with the parent through whom the grandparent is related. If you are considering filing for grandparent visitation rights in the state of Arizona, consider visiting with an experienced family law attorney who can help you understand your legal rights and how best to build a strong petition for visitation as a grandparent in Arizona.
Petitioning for Full-Custody of Grandchildren in Arizona by Grandparents
Under certain circumstances, Arizona Revised Statute §25-409 also allows a grandparent to obtain full custody of their grandchildren. In order to obtain full custody of a grandchild, a grandparent must show that the following to a court:
- The grandparent has acted as a substitute parent (also called “in loco parentis”).
- The grandparent proves that if either parent were to have legal decision-making authority or physical custody of the child, the minor child would be at risk of physical or emotional harm.
- The court has not issued a legally binding decision regarding the parental time within one year prior to the grandparents’ petition for full custody.
- One or both parents are deceased, or the parents of the child are not married to each other, or divorce between both parents is pending in the legal system.
The presumption regarding who has the best interest of a child rests always with the parents. While attempting to obtain full-custody of grandchildren in Arizona is possible, you must build a strong case proving that it is truly in the “best interest of the child” to allow a grandparent to obtain full legal custody of a minor child.
Grandparents’ Rights Following an Adoption
The law is clear and definitive that if a child is “put up for adoption,” the visitation rights of a grandparent will end and terminate completely. The only case where this does not apply is if the person adopting the child is a step-parent legally married to the child’s legal parent. Additionally, if a child is adopted, but later is removed from that adopted home, a court will have the legal right to reinstate and visitation rights of a grandparent.
Placing a child up for adoption is a way for parents to terminate all legal rights to a child. Additionally, the family adopting the child then has full legal rights with respect to that child. Therefore, the grandparents of the child will not have any legal rights to visit the child if the child is placed for adoption. If you fear that your grandchild may be placed for adoption, and would like to try to obtain full custody of that grandchild, contact an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible to attempt to obtain full legal custody of your grandchild.
Pursuing Your Grandparents’ Rights in Arizona
If you developed a strong relationship with your grandchild, you may be devastated that you have lost visitation rights and no longer are able to see your grandchild regularly. While the courts in Arizona typically grant a presumption of decision-making authority with respect to a child to the parents, there are circumstances in which a grandparent has the legal right to pursue visitation, or even full custody, of their grandchild. While there are several presumptions to overcome and significant legal challenges, fighting for the right to remain an integral part of your grandchild’s life is your legal right. We welcome the opportunity to help you learn how you may have the right to file for grandparents’ rights in Arizona and continue your relationship with your grandchild. Contact one of our experienced family law attorneys at My Modern Law in Scottsdale, Mesa, Peoria, or Phoenix, Arizona who can provide you with answers and ensure your legal rights as a grandparent remain protected. Contact us at (480) 470-7731 or online today.