Under Arizona law, a grandparent may receive visitation rights with a child whose parents have been divorced more than three months, whose parents were never married, or if one of the parents is deceased, provided the court finds such visitation in the best interests of the child.
To determine if visitation is in the child’s best interests, the court considers a number of relevant statutory factors, as shown in the recent Arizona Court of Appeals case of Medlin v. Wright.
A grandparent seeks visitation
The mother and her ex-husband had one child from their marriage. The mother was given sole decision making authority (previously known as “custody”) over the child in the divorce. The mother and the child lived with the child’s grandfather for approximately five years, until the mother relocated out of state.
The father requested a change in parenting time after the move, and the court awarded the father two weeks of parenting time, under the grandfather’s supervision, with the child staying at the grandfather’s house. However, the mother sought and received an order of protection against the grandfather, alleging he had sent harassing communications.
In the meantime, the grandfather had petitioned for grandparent visitation. The mother argued that her denial of such visitation was reasonable, considering the order of protection she had obtained. The superior court disagreed and awarded the grandfather one week of visitation each year. The mother appealed.
A close relationship with the child
Although there is a presumption under the law that a parent acts in his or her child’s best interest, the Arizona Court of Appeals found that the grandfather in this case had overcome that presumption.
The grandfather and the child shared a close caregiver/child relationship that had existed most of the child’s life. The grandfather desired to continue that relationship and he was willing to have visitation only during school breaks. In addition, the mother had not objected to the grandfather’s involvement until she married her new husband.
The grandfather testified that the mother rejected his request due to her anger over him disclosing her location to the child’s father. The fact that the mother had relied on the grandfather to help co-parent the child for most of the child’s life suggested her motivation might not have been only the child’s best interests.
The superior court had considered significant evidence that the mother’s decision was contrary to the child’s best interests and, therefore, the court’s award of grandparent visitation was affirmed.
Knowledgeable legal representation
Whether you are a grandparent seeking visitation or a parent trying to prevent it, it is important that you are represented by an experienced family law attorney. Seek an attorney who is knowledgeable about the law and knows how to protect your rights while also considering the best interests of the children involved.