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Arizona grandparents' rights

One of the child custody issues facing couples undergoing divorce are whether grandparents have any visitation rights. However, Arizona law provides limited rights for these visits.

The state exempts intact families from grandparent visitation. Even for the right for filing a petition for visitation, grandparents must prove one of several conditions. First, the child's parents' marriage was dissolved for at least three months. Or, a parent is dead or was officially declared missing for at least three months. Finally, the child was born to unwed parents who never marry.

Grandparents can file for visitation rights, if they qualify, during the divorce or paternity proceedings. If these hearings are not held, grandparents can file their own petition.

When ruling on a visitation request, an Arizona court must consider the best interests of the child. These include the relationship between the grandparent and their grandchild, their motivation in seeking visitation rights, the parent's motivation in opposing visitation, the amount of time requested and any negative impact that visitation will have on the child's normal activities. If a parent died, the court should consider the benefit of keeping a relationship with the extended family.

Since 2013, great-grandparents and other relatives such as siblings, aunts and uncles and step-relative can seek visitation. If visitation is granted, it must occur when the grandchild's parent has access to the child if feasible and appropriate.

Adoption terminates a grandparent's visitation rights unless a stepparent is adopting the child. The Arizona Supreme Court held that it is not unconstitutional to discriminate between stepparent and two-parent adoptions because it is less important for a new start in stepparent adoptions.

Grandparents, unlike noncustodial parents, have no right to keep the children's parents from moving out of Arizona. Also, visitation orders cannot make parents take actions such as encouraging phone calls to the grandparents.

An experienced family law attorney can help parents and families confront custody and visitation issues. They can help protect rights and the child's best interests.

Source: The Spruce, "The rights of grandparents in Arizona," By Susan Adcox, Accessed Nov. 14, 2017

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