Third Party, Grandparents and Domestic Partner Rights in Arizona

Third Party Rights Attorneys in Scottsdale and Phoenix, AZ

Do third parties have a right to visitation with a child?

Sometimes. Even if a person is not the biological parent of a child, he or she may still have rights to see that child. In certain situations, someone who is not the child’s legal parent, such as a grandparent, great-grandparent or domestic partner can be classified as a “third-party” and may be entitled to visitation with a minor child.

If a child’s parent opposes visitation with a third-party, visitation rights may still be granted by the court. In Arizona, grandparents and other persons such as domestic partners, can petition the Court for visitation with a minor child even if the child’s parent(s) objects. Parties seeking visitation with a minor child must show that such visitation is in the child’s best interests and that the objecting parent is not acting in the child’s best interests.

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Third Party Rights

In Arizona, there is a legal presumption that awarding legal decision-making to a legal parent is in the child’s best interest, and it is the responsibility of the third party petitioner to present clear and convincing evidence that this is not the case.

Also in deciding whether to grant third party visitation, the court must give special weight to the legal parents’ opinions and certain other factors as prescribed in statute, such as the historic relationship between the child and the petitioner.

This means that the court will generally side with the child’s parent. Therefore, proving that visitation is in the best interests of a child over a parent’s objections can be difficult.

Third Parties seeking visitation rights should petition the court as part of a divorce proceeding, paternity proceeding, or other legal decision-making or parenting time proceeding before the family court.

If there is no such proceeding, the third-parties can petition the court separately for visitation.

In Arizona, individuals considered to stand “in place of a parent” to the child may ask the Court for legal decision-making and/or placement rights.

Arizona courts use the term “in loco parentis” to describe an individual who stands “in place of a parent.”

For example, grandparents of children whose parents are not married are often considered to stand “in loco parentis” to a child.

What factors determine a third-party's rights to visitation with a child?

IN DETERMINING THE CHILD’S BEST INTERESTS AND THIRD PARTY RIGHTS THE COURT WILL CONSIDER ALL RELEVANT FACTORS INCLUDING:

The past relationship between the child and the party requesting visitation;
the motives of the party requesting visitation and the motives of the parent who has denied visitation;
the impact the visitation may have on the child’s activities; and
the benefits of maintaining an extended family relationship.

THE COURT MUST ALSO FIND THAT AT LEAST ONE OF THE FOLLOWING IS TRUE:

The parents have been divorced for at least three months (this applies to grandparents and great-grandparents);
a proceeding for divorce or for legal separation of the legal parents is pending at the time the petition is filed (this applies to those seeking in loco parentis visitation – in loco parentis means those who stand in place of a parent);
one of the legal parents of the child is deceased or 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 petition is filed.

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