Arizona law provides for grandparents (and other people who are not parents) to get a court order for visitation with a child. When grandparents seek visitation with a child, they usually do so because their child (the parent of the grandchild) has passed away or has very limited time with the child, such as in the case of a parent who frequently deploys with the military, who lives across the country, or who has abandoned the child.
The best route is usually for the grandparents and parents to talk to each other and come to an agreement for the grandparents to visit the child. My first advice to either parent or the grandparents is to talk to the other parties and work something out. This often requires the adults to act like adults and set aside the fact that they do not particularly like the other parties or that they are mad at them. Unless the grandparents pose a danger to the child, continued contact with the grandparents is usually best for the child.
One practical consideration for the grandparents is the parents’ reaction to their petition. The court will probably grant a visitation order, but the court will not be overly generous with the time it orders for the grandparents. Therefore, if the parents are voluntarily allowing some visitation, the grandparents may be better off not seeking an order from the court because it will probably not result in more time for the grandparents, could well result in less time for the grandparents (the likelihood of the parents giving the grandparents more time than the court ordered is slim), and will put more strain on the relationship between the parents and grandparents.
However, sometimes the only alternative is to seek the court’s intervention. The grandparents must prove that visitation is in the child’s best interest and one of the following: one of the legal parents is deceased or has been missing for at least three months; the child was born out of wedlock and the child’s legal parents are not married to each other at the time the grandparents file their petition; the child’s parents have been divorced for at least three months; or, for in loco parentis visitation, the parents’ divorce or legal separation action is pending when the grandparents filed their petition for visitation. If the grandparents successfully prove these factors, the court may grant them visitation.
The grandparents’ petition must be under oath and contain detailed facts supporting their position. In making its decision, the court must giving special weight to the parents’ opinion of what serves the child’s best interest, and must consider all relevant factors, including: the historical relationship between the grandparents and the child; the grandparents’ motivation in seeking visitation; the motivation of the person objecting to visitation; the quantity of visitation that the grandparents seek and the potential adverse impact that it will have on the child’s customary activities; and, if one of the child’s parents are deceased, the benefit to the child of maintaining an extended family relationship. If logistically possible, the grandparents’ visitation time must be during the parenting time awarded to the parent through whom the grandparents claim a right of visitation.
If you have questions about grandparent visitation in Arizona, please contact Thomas A. Morton.