Suppose your son or daughter files for divorce. It may be a contested divorce and you are worried that their ex-spouse can restrict your visits with your grandchildren. Divorce proceedings can become combative, and you want to protect your relationship with the grandchildren, and preserve your rights as grandparents. You do have rights under Arizona state law, and a family lawyer can advise you how to obtain and preserve them.
Legal Resources for Grandparents
Under Arizona Statute 25-402B.2, and 25-409C a third party is allowed to petition for visitation with a minor child if the following conditions are met:
- The court finds that the visitation is in the best interests of the child; and
- For grandparents, or great grandparents, the marriage has been dissolved for three months
Read the statute carefully. There is a difference between a third party filing for in loco parentis standing, and a third party relative who just wants visitation with a minor child. In loco parentis means the petitioner wants to assume some of a parent’s legal powers, without ending the legal relationship between the biological parent and child. It is usually filed by a relative who has physical custody of the child, and believes that keeping the child in their custody is in the child’s best interests. With the in loco parentis standing, a guardian can make decisions about a child’s schooling, medical needs, etc. Usually, the law requires a parent to make those decisions.
Advice for Grandparents
Remember that the court is going to look at the best interests of the child; your grandchild. If you want your petition to succeed, you have to meet a high standard of proof, and demonstrate the quality of your relationship with your grandchild, why this relationship should continue, and how it will not disrupt your grandchild’s life.
Get as much evidence as possible. You must have photographs of you with the grandchild/grandchildren. I hope you kept cards from the children, or details of family visits. If the grandchildren visited you, have witnesses who can testify about the visit; how much the children enjoyed themselves; people who saw you on outings, picnics, local fairs, etc. Facts are critical in every legal proceeding. The more proof you offer about the good relationship you and your grandchildren had, the more likely your petition will succeed.
A Word to the Wise
As a parent, you are bound to resent your child’s ex-spouse. You’d have to be a Saint not to harbor a grudge. It is so important that you never express those feelings to your grandchildren. Suppose your child is not the custodial parent. You don’t want your petition denied because you’ve been telling the grandchildren that their mother or father is a bad person. The judge in Superior Court will take this into account when deciding whether or not to grant the petition. They may feel that hearing unbridled criticism of a parent is not in the child’s best interests. Discretion is the better part of valor, especially when you are filing a petition for visitation with your grandchildren.