A healthy relationship between a child and grandparent can have significant positive affects on the child’s academic, psychological and social development. However, when disputes arise between parents, this often impacts the entire family dynamic, including these vital extended relationships. Fortunately, the Arizona Courts recognize that grandparents can play a pivotal role in the overall well-being and development of children.
In cases where a grandparent or great-grandparent is being denied contact with a child, the Court can intervene and establish a Court-Ordered plan for visitation between the grandparent and child. Upon filing a Petition for grandparent visitation, the Court will require: (a) that one of the child’s biological parents is deceased or has been missing for at least three months; or (b) that the child was born out of wedlock and the biological parents are not married at the time of filing; or (c) that the child’s parents have been divorced for at least three months.
Since the legal presumption is that a fit and appropriate parent will act in a child’s best interests, the Court will give “special weight” to the parents’ opinion concerning visitation. However, in determining whether or not grandparent visitation is appropriate, the Court must also consider many additional factors, including the historical relationship between the child and grandparent, the motivations of the parents and grandparents, how the requested visitation will impact the child’s activities, and the benefit in maintaining extended family relationships.
If the Court, after considering all of the relevant evidence and statutory factors, determines that grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interests, then a specific visitation plan will be put into place. Although the amount of visitation a grandparent receives can be somewhat limited, pursuing a specific Order is often vital and necessary to maintain extended family bonds.
– Brandy M. Ramsay, Esq.