One of the most important issues facing families these days is the issue of grandparents' rights with respect to their grandchildren. In some situations, grandparents seek to have visitation with their grandchildren and in other situations, they seek to have full custody of the children instead of the natural parents. At Katz and Bloom, our family law attorneys have extensive experience in dealing with the issue of grandparents' rights and always remain current on their research into the constantly evolving legal arguments which balance the constitutional rights of a child's parents against the rights of a grandparent.
When a grandparent seeks visitation with a grandchild in the state of Arizona , such a request is made pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute §25-409. In considering a request for grandparent visitation, the Court must consider if the requested visitation is in the best interests of a child. A grandparent can only request visitation if (1) the marriage of the parents of the child has been dissolved for at least three months, if (2) a parent of the child has been deceased or has been missing for at least three months, or (3) the child was born out of wedlock.
In determining what amount of visitation, if any, is in a child's best interests, the court must also consider the historical relationship, if any, between the child and the person seeking visitation, the motivation of the requesting party in seeking visitation, the motivation of the person denying visitation, the quantity of visitation time requested and the potential adverse impact that visitation will have on the child's customary activities, and if one or both of the child's parents are dead, the benefit in maintaining an extended family relationship.
Under Arizona law, the family court must also apply the presumption that a fit parent acts in his or her child's best interest in decisions concerning the child's care, custody and control, including decisions concerning grandparent visitation. Therefore the court must give special weight to a fit parent's determination of whether visitation is in the child's best interest.
If a grandparent wishes to seek custody of a minor child, such a request can be filed in the family court pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute §25-415. In order for a grandparent to be awarded custody or a minor child, the court must find that the grandparent stands in place of a parent and that the child and grandparent have formed a normal child-parent relationship, that It would be significantly detrimental to the child to remain or be placed in the custody of either of the child's living legal parents who wish to retain or obtain custody, and that the parents were not married to each other or one of them is deceased. If a person other than a child's legal parent is seeking custody there is a rebuttable presumption that it is in the child's best interest to award custody to a legal parent because of the physical, psychological and emotional needs of the child to be reared by the child's legal parent. To rebut this presumption that person must show by clear and convincing evidence that awarding custody to a legal parent is not in the child's best interests.