Stepparents have a unique relationship with their stepchildren. Although they are not biologically related, they often serve a parental role. Arizona recognizes this special relationship and has created a process for a stepparent to seek custody.
To be able to seek custody, a stepparent must meet the following thresholds:
- He or she must be “in loco parentis,” which means the stepparent is or was serving in a parental role for the child.
- The stepparent must show that it is significantly detrimental for the child to be in the custody of either legal parent.
- There has been no court order about legal decision-making or parenting time within one year (unless the child is currently in danger, then this does not apply).
- One of the legal parents is deceased, the legal parents are not currently married to each other, or a divorce is currently pending.
The court has a presumption that it is in the best interest of the child to be placed with a legal parent, so a stepparent who wants to obtain custody (legal decision-making) must show with clear and convincing evidence that it is not in the child’s best interest for the child to be placed with a parent.
A stepparent can obtain visitation (parenting time) if any one of the following situations exists:
- Visitation is in the child’s best interest.
- One of the legal parents is deceased or missing for three months.
- The child was born out of wedlock and the legal parents are not married to each other.
- If the parents are married and a divorce is pending.
When the court decides whether to grant visitation to a stepparent, it will consider:
- The history of the relationship between the child and stepparent.
- The stepparent’s motivation for seeking visitation.
- The amount of time sought and what kind of negative impact this could have on the child’s activities and schedule.
- If one or both of the legal parents are deceased, the benefits in maintaining this extended family relationship.
The Sampair Group represents parents and stepparents in family court matters. Our attorneys serve Phoenix and Mesa and are ready to discuss your case.