Although many grandparents do not realize it, grandparents’ rights (the ability to spend time with your grandchildren) is actually a privilege, not a right. Assuming the parents of a child are fit, those parents have a great deal of discretion over the amount of time they allow their children to spend with the grandparents. Under Arizona law, there are limited circumstances under which a grandparent can even file a lawsuit to obtain grandparents’ rights. To begin, one of the following must be true:
- One of the legal parents is deceased
- The child’s legal parents are not married to each other at the time the petition is filed
- A proceeding for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the legal parents is pending at the time the petition is filed
In addition to being able to meet one of the factors listed above, grandparents must tread carefully in terms of how much time they are asking to see the children; if you are a grandparent, you want to ask for enough time to allow your bond with the children to grow, but you do not want to ask for so much time that the judge considers the request invasive.
Ultimately, as in all things related to custody, parenting time and visitation, grandparents must be able to prove that having a relationship with the grandchildren is in the children’s best interest. In certain circumstances, a judge might find that two people are the best grandparents in the world. And then decide that legally requiring a relationship with the grandchildren could expose the children to high conflict between the parents and grandparents. Consequently, a judge might find that granting grandparents’ rights is not in the children’s best interest.
In the event the parent or parents of the children are unfit, a judge will not automatically presume that the decisions the parent is making are in the best interests of the children. This means if the unfit parent is not allowing a grandparent to see the children, grandparents could secure more rights than they ever imagined. In fact, in some cases, grandparents might even be able to gain custody rights over the grandchildren.
If your relationship with your grandchildren has been compromised because of a poor relationship with your children, we can help. If you are a parent and have a strong belief that there should be no grandparents’ rights to your children, we are here to advise you. We will navigate you through the Arizona custody cases and statutes to achieve a result that is best for the children.