Do You Have a Right to Visit Your Grandchildren After Divorce?

For children, divorce doesn’t just mean no longer living with both parents under one roof. It also means the end of familiar routines, including visits to see extended family. For grandparents of children of divorce, parental custody arrangements and visitation schedules can disrupt the time normally spent with grandchildren. Traditional weekend excursions to a paternal grandparent, for example, may be frustrated by the mother’s fractured relationship with her former in-laws.

In Arizona, grandparents may petition for visitation rights in specified circumstances, namely where:

  • the child’s parents were never married
  • the parents have been divorced for three months or longer
  • one parent is deceased or has been missing for three months or longer

Even in those circumstances, winning visitation rights depends on what the court considers to be in the best interests of the child. The determination rests on several factors, including:

  • The history of relationship with the child — Was the child used to being picked up by a grandparent from school every day, as opposed to only visiting her grandparents on Thanksgiving?
  • The grandparent’s motivation for visitation — Is the grandparent asking for new visitation, beyond what has been the norm, to take time away from one of the child’s parents?
  • The parent’s motivation for opposing visitation — Is one parent trying to limit the other parent’s total time with the child by opposing time with that parent’s family?
  • The amount of visitation being requested and its potential disruption to the child’s schedule — Is a grandparent demanding full weekend visits that may interfere with a child’s Saturday baseball practice or other activities?
  • The potential benefits for a child whose parent is dead, incarcerated or institutionalized — Would visitation with grandparents foster familial continuity, help preserve the parent’s memory or reputation and help the children deal with the situation?

Aside from these factors, the court may consider all information relevant to the child’s best interests.

Arizona law also provides for grandparents to be awarded child custody in limited circumstances, such as where it is proved by clear and convincing evidence that it would be detrimental for the child to remain in her parent’s home. This is a high burden of proof, since there is a legal presumption that it is in children’s best interests to be with their parents.

If you have questions about your rights to visit or seek custody of a grandchild under Arizona law, a family law attorney can explain the law and inform you of your options. For a free consultation, call Clark & Schloss Family Law, P.C. at [ln::phone] or contact us online.