Compassionate Family Lawyer Assists Grandparents with Visitation and Custody in Payson, AZ
Fighting for important relationships that serve the best interests of children
The bond between grandparents and grandchildren can be powerful and very positive for both sides. Unfortunately, the death of a parent or a divorce can disrupt that relationship, and grandparents can find themselves cut off. Under certain circumstances, grandparents might even need to pursue custody of their grandchildren for their own good. If you find yourself in such a quandary, the Law Office of Phil Hineman, P.C. can help you assert your rights under Arizona law. We provide compassionate and effective representation for grandparents to help them preserve their loving relationship with their grandchildren and to protect them whenever necessary.
Circumstances in which grandparents must assert their legal rights
There are two basic situations in which grandparents can assert their right to either custody or visitation. First, if the parents are unfit, someone must step in to help the children. Having a loving family member take over parental duties is almost always preferable to action by the Arizona Department of Child Safety. Parents who suffer from addiction cannot adequately care for their children. Other circumstances can also make the grandparents a better choice for legal and physical custody (called legal decision-making and placement).
The second situation is common after the death of a parent or the parents’ divorce. When one parent dies, the surviving parent often views the deceased’s parents as unhappy reminders of that loss and tries to shield the children from contact with them. But this misguided reaction actually creates a greater sense of loss for the children. In the case of divorce, a custodial parent’s resentment often carries over to the ex-spouse’s parents. The custodial parent then tries to block contact between the children and the grandparents or to alienate the children emotionally from the grandparents.
Fortunately, Arizona law protects grandparents in both of these situations. The law also allows other interested third parties, such as older siblings, uncles and aunts, to act in the best interests of children. The law puts a father’s rights on par with a mother’s as well.
How Arizona law protects grandparents and other third parties
Section 25-409 of the Arizona Revised Statutes governs how grandparents and other interested third parties can seek custody and visitation of children. Any petition for custody (called “legal decision-making authority or placement of the child” in the law) must satisfy these requirements:
- The petitioner “stands in loco parentis to the child” (i.e., is acting as a parent).
- Having either parent assume custody would be “significantly detrimental” to the child.
- A court has not decided custody for the child in the last year. (Exceptions can be made if the child’s present environment poses a serious danger.)
- One of the child’s legal parents is deceased, the legal parents are not married or proceedings for a divorce or legal separation of the parents is pending.
A petitioner who meets these entry-level requirements must overcome the legal presumption that a custody award to a legal parent serves the child’s best interests.
The law also allows persons other than a legal parent to petition for visitation with the child. If the court decides visitation would be in the child’s best interest, the petitioner must show that at least one of these conditions exist:
- 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.
- For grandparent or great-grandparent visitation, the marriage of the parents of the child has been dissolved for at least three months.
- For in loco parentis visitation, a proceeding for the parents’ divorce or legal separation is pending.
Of course, the overriding consideration for the court when deciding custody and visitation issues is “the best interests of the child.” Factors the court is likely to consider include:
- The relationship that already exists between the grandparents and the child
- The benefits to the child of maintaining a relationship with the grandparents
- The grandparents’ motives in seeking custody or visitation
- The parent’s motives for preventing visitation
- The amount of visitation time requested
Whether you are seeking custody or visitation with your grandchildren, a family law attorney can guide you through every step of the process.
Contact a compassionate family lawyer in Payson, AZ to discuss grandparents rights
The Law Office of Phil Hineman, P.C. provides specific, reliable guidance and representation for grandparents and third parties engaged in child custody and visitation disputes. Call us today at 928-257-1155 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney.