Can Third Parties Be Awarded Child Custody or Visitation in Arizona?

In Arizona child custody cases, the law creates a rebuttable presumption that awarding legal decision-making authority to one or both of the parents best serves the child's physical, psychological and emotional needs. This is a difficult presumption to overcome. But there are certain circumstances where the law allows a third party, such as a grandparent, aunt, uncle or other close acquaintance, to seek custody of or visitation with a child.

Can Third Parties Be Awarded Child Custody or Visitation in Arizona?

Arizona does allow third party individuals such as a grandparent or sibling to be awarded custody or visitation rights. It requires petitioning the court when certain conditions are true. If approved, the third party would be awarded legal decision-making authority, parenting time and / or visitation rights.

How Third Parties Be Awarded Child Custody in Arizona

A third party may seek legal decision-making authority or parenting time with the child if the following are true:

  1. The petitioner stands in loco parentis to the child. This means that the person has formed a meaningful parental-type relationship with the child for a substantial period of time.
  2. It would be significantly detrimental to the child to be in the custody of either parent who wishes to keep or acquire legal decision-making.
  3. No other court order has been entered concerning legal decision-making or parenting time within one year before the third party filed the current petition.
  4. One of the child’s legal parents is deceased, the child’s parents are not married to each other at the time of the custody petition or there is a pending proceeding for dissolution of the marriage or legal separation.

How Third Parties Be Awarded Visitation Rights in Arizona

It is somewhat easier in Arizona for a third party to be granted visitation rights. Any of the following facts, if established, will support a petition:

  1. One of the legal parents is deceased or has been missing at least three months.
  2. 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.
  3. For grandparental or great-grandparental visitation, the marriage of the parents of the child has been dissolved for at least three months.
  4. For in loco parentis visitation, a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the legal parents is pending at the time the petition is filed.

Whether you are seeking custody or visitation as a third party, it is important to retain a skilled child custody attorney for assistance.

The attorneys at Clark & Schloss Family Law, P.C. in Scottsdale, Arizona are experienced advocates on behalf of family members and other people seeking third-party custody and visitation rights. For a consultation, call us at 602-789-3497 or contact us online.