Sometimes, such as, when parents separate or a parent dies, the relationship between the grandparents and children is ended or severely limited. Grandparents have rights to visitation but those rights must be balanced against interfering in a parent’s ability to make decisions for their child. The United States Supreme Court provided some guidance regarding third party visits in Troxel v. Granville. In that case, they struck down a Washington statute that was very broad in granting visitation. As a result, most states have curtailed visitation rights for non-parents. In Arizona, Grandparents and great-grandparents have had visitation rights for several years. A.R.S.§25-409. This statute was specific to grandparents. As of January 1, 2013 the statute is changing to reflect a broader recognition of third party visitation and that children may have many important relationships that the court should foster and protect, for example, other significant relationships such as, aunts, uncles, older siblings, or a former step-parent.
Petitioning for Third Party Visitation- The Basic Requirements
A person other than the legal parent may petition for visitation if it is in the child’s best interest and one of the following is true:
1. One legal parent is deceased or has been missing longer than three months.
2. The parents were never married or are divorced or a proceeding is pending.
3. If the grandparents or great grandparents are making the request the parents must be divorced for three months before a petition for visitation can be filed.
The Petition: This is where you tell the court about your relationship and why you need the court’s help. The petition must be supported by specific facts and sent to the parent.
The court will consider the relevant factors such as,
Before filing a visitation action against the parent, talk with a lawyer, counselor or other professional about ideas that may resolve the dispute. If you can avoid going to court your long-term relationship will be better and you are more likely to have more time with the child. If you can’t work it out then the above factors are what you should consider when weighing your options and making the decision to file a Petition to ask the court to force visitation.
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