The relationship between a child and their grandparent carries a huge, fundamental importance across the globe. Grandparents are often a child’s first regular babysitter, the first house a child sleeps over at other than their own, and even their first confidant for issues a child may not be ready to talk about with Mom and Dad. In some instances, the grandparent is the first relative to step up to the plate if a child’s parents are permanently or temporarily unable to fulfill their obligations to the child. Because of this, it can be heartbreaking for a grandparent and traumatizing for a child who is suddenly denied visitation due to a dispute in the family. The State of Arizona recognizes that it may in the best interest of a child to be able to spend quality time with a grandparent, even if the child’s parents disagree. Because of this, Arizona law permits a grandparent to petition for visitation rights under certain circumstances.
What is the rule for Grandparent's Visitation Rights?
A.R.S. § 25-409 is the Arizona statute that determines the rights of all non-parents, not just grandparents, in regard to a child. In order to petition for visitation one of the following must be true:
1. One of the child’s parents is deceased or has been missing for at least three months.
2. The parents of the child have been divorced for at least three months; OR
3. The parents were never married before the child was born and are not married now.
If any of these are true, then the grandparent may petition for visitation rights with the child but must prove that it is in the child’s best interest.
Proving visitation with a grandparent may be in the child’s best interest:
When the court is determining whether grandparent visitation time is in the best interest of the child, A.R.S. § 25-409 points them to five factors in particular to consider before ruling:
1. The historical relationship between the child and the petitioning grandparent.
2. The motivation of the grandparent requesting visitation time.
3. The motivation of the person objecting to visitation.
4. The quantity of visitation time being requested by the grandparent, and any potentially negative impacts visitation could have on the children’s regular activities.
5. If either or both of the parents are deceased, the benefits of maintaining an extended family relationship.
If the court determines visitation for a grandparent is in the best interest of the child, then it may order a visitation schedule that is as minimally invasive to the child as possible.
What should you do next?
If you are being denied visitation with your grandchildren, then you may very well have redress. With that being said, the first step is always to try and work out a solution with the parents of the child for visitation. Both A.R.S. § 25-409 and Arizona case law give strong weight to the opinion of the parents objecting to visitation. This means that any person petition for these visitation rights will have the burden of proving that visitation is in the child’s best interest despite the parent’s objections.
If these conversations don’t work, it may be time to explore your legal right to visitation with your grandchild further and more aggressively. A child visitation attorney can help. Call Citadel Law Firm PLLC today at 480-565-8020 to schedule your free consultation, or click here.
Michael Albee is a Family Law Attorney in Arizona. He can help you with questions about divorce, child visitation, legal separation and other family law related questions.