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Grandparents' rights in Arizona have expanded

When it comes to grandparents' rights, Arizona has not traditionally been the most hospitable state. In fact, here, two-parent intact families are exempt from being sued for grandparent visitation. Four years ago, however, Arizona legislators updated their family law statutes.

Under current laws, "a person other than a legal parent may petition the superior court for visitation with a child." This means that others besides grandparents may petition the courts to allow visitation. Step-relatives, aunts, uncles and siblings may qualify to seek visitation privileges. Great-grandparents have the same rights as grandparents regarding visitation with children.

Some situations where grandparents may petition the court to spend time with their grandchildren, include when:

  • One of the parents died
  • The children's parents have been divorced for 90 days
  • A parent is officially listed as missing for no fewer than three months
  • The parents of the child are unmarried

There is also a caveat associated with the last exception. If unmarried parents of a baby decide later to marry, under Arizona law, they are now viewed as an intact family not subject to petitions for visitation from the child's grandparents.

If you are a grandparent who qualifies, your petition can become part of a paternity determination or divorce litigation. Under other circumstances, qualified grandparents may file a petition for visitation separately.

These expanded grandparent visitation rights still are subject to the children's best interests, and as such, courts must mull "all relevant factors," specifically:

  • The petitioner's motivation
  • Motivation of the parent (or other) who opposes the visitation
  • Historical relationship(s) between the children and their grandparents
  • How much visitation time is requested
  • Any potentially negative effect the visitation will have on the children's regular activities
  • When one of the children's parents has died, any benefits the kids will receive from maintaining an ongoing relationship with the deceased parent's extended family

Another provision under the law is that when it's "logistically possible and appropriate," grandparents shall visit with their grandchildren while the kids are spending time with the grandparents' son or daughter.

Still have questions about the changes? An Arizona family law attorney is a good source to turn to for advice and counsel.

Source: the spruce, "The Rights of Grandparents in Arizona," Susan Adcox, Oct. 29, 2017

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