Third-Party Rights in Arizona
In Arizona, individuals other than legal parents may have rights to legal decision-making or visitation with a child. Generally, these individuals include grandparents, great-grandparents, or other individuals who have acted as a parent to a child. Acting as a parent to a child is known as in loco p
Establishing Third Party Rights in ArizonaIn order to file for third-party legal decision-making rights, a court must find all of the following: 1) you are acting like the child's parent; 2) it would be significantly detrimental to the child to remain or be placed in the care of either legal parent; 3) a legal decision-making or parenting time order has not been entered in the last year, unless there is reason to believe that child is seriously endangered; and, 4) one of the following is true: a parent is deceased; the child's parents are not married; or, a divorce proceeding is pending.
The standards for visitation are less stringent than the standards for legal decision-making. In order to file for third-party visitation, a court must find: 1) a parent is deceased; 2) the child was born out of wedlock and the parents are not married; 3) for grandparents, the parents have been divorced for three months or more; or, 4) for in loco parentis, a divorce is pending.
How Does the Court Determine Who Should Get to Have Rights?In determining third-party rights, the court is going to place heavy weight on the parents' opinion of who should have access to their child. The court will also look examine the following factors:
o The relationship between the person seeking third party rights and the child.
o The motivation for why you are seeking third party rights.
o The motivation for why a parent is objecting to visitation.
o The quantity and impact of visitation.
o If a parent is deceased, the benefit of maintaining an extended family relationship.
All of these factors will be examined in light of what is the in the best interest of the child. Courts start with the presumption that the legal parent is the correct party to have legal decision-making and parenting time rights. The party seeking third-party rights has a very high burden of clear and convincing evidence to rebut the presumption that awarding the legal parents the rights is not consistent with the child's best interest.
The court definitely prefers not to interfere with legal parents' rights to their children by granting rights to a third party.