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Grandparents' Rights

In Arizona, Grandparents have certain rights towards their grandchildren built into the law.

If grandparents are being denied visitation with their grandchildren by one or both of the parents, they may be entitled to file for grandparent rights under A.R.S. § 25-409(A). If the grand child or children's parents are not able to provide for their needs, or are subjecting them to abuse, neglect, or domestic violence, grandparents may even be able to seek full time custody.

Grandparents whose children are involved in the dependency process (meaning they have been removed from their parents' care by DCS/CPS) often find themselves left out of the process, discounted as possible placement, and unaware what rights they have regarding their grandchildren. Grandparents of children in dependency cases have a right to participate in hearings, to be offered visitation in some circumstances, and to be considered as placement for their grandchildren.

Court involvement can be difficult for those familiar with the system, and nearly impossible for those who are not. Our firm is committed to ensuring that grandparents are able get the help they need to maintain contact with their grandchildren, and obtain placement or legal custody when necessary. We have significant experience in this area in both the family and juvenile courts.  

Statutes:

A.R.S. § 25-409(A) governs third-party custody rights.  Under this statute, the petitioner must stand in loco parentis[1] to the child. The petitioner must be able to prove that, “It would be significantly detrimental to the child to remain or be placed in the care of either legal parent who wishes to keep or acquire legal decision-making.”(A)(2). Additionally, the petitioner must prove the family is not intact, e.g., a parent is deceased, the parents are not married, or a divorce proceeding is pending in court. (A)(4).

The statute also states that, “it is a rebuttable presumption that awarding legal decision-making to a legal parent serves the child's best interests.” A.R.S. § 25-409(B).  The statute requires clear and convincing evidence to rebut this presumption.  Id.   It is important to know that the parents can seek to modify the Court's orders one year after their entry.  A.R.S. § 25-411 and Rule 91(D), Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure.

This Arizona statute, A.R.S. § 25-409(C), also provides for the possibility of grandparent (or third-party) visitation rights.  For many grandparents, establishing visitation rights ensures continuing relationships.  It also provides the opportunity for the grandparents to have frequent enough contact with their grandchildren in order to ensure they are safe and happy.  Equally important, if the children are at risk of abuse or neglect, it positions the grandparents to act as necessary to protect their grandchildren.

Resources:

Arizona Children's Action Alliance has been a voice for grandparents' rights throughout the legal process.

http://azchildren.org/category/issues/grandfamilies-issues

The KARE Family Center are dedicated to helping grandparents, foster parents, and other caretakers receive the help they need to support children though difficult situations.

http://www.casey.org/kare/

[1] A Latin term in the law meaning “in [the] place of a parent.” This refers to the legal responsibility of a person or organization to perform some of the functions or responsibilities of a parent. 

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