If you’re a parent in Arizona, then you need to know about your visitation rights. Whether you’re considering divorce or are already divorced, it’s important to understand what your visitation rights are and how they can be enforced. Here are five fast facts about visitation rights in Arizona.
Visitation Rights Are Initially Awarded to Both Biological Parents
In a divorce, parents going through a custody battle often must determine visitation rights for both parents. Generally, visitation rights are initially awarded to both biological parents under Arizona law.
Under the “best interests of the child” test used by most family courts, judges typically strive to make decisions that would be in the best interests of any children involved in a custody case.
This means they will try to ensure that their decisions regarding parenting time with the children are calculated to promote stability and prevent harm to the child or children due to ongoing family conflict.
Unmarried Fathers Don’t Have Legal Rights To A Child Unless Paternity Has Been Established
In Arizona, paternity must be established to create a legal relationship between an unmarried father and his child. In some cases, the mother may sign an affidavit of paternity that will establish this relationship without going to court or having a blood test. It is strongly recommended that parents speak with an attorney before signing any documents regarding their children because these actions can have a long-term impact on the parent’s rights and responsibilities toward their children.
An unmarried father should file a paternity petition with the courts and request to establish his parental rights. This will provide the right for visitation and custody of the child and it can also give him legal responsibility for any future problems that may arise through medical expenses or other costs that need to be paid. When paternity is established, an order can be obtained by both parents detailing what visitation arrangements will take place.
A paternity action begins when either one of the parents files a Petition to Determine Paternity with the juvenile court in Arizona family law proceedings or through a superior court in Arizona if both parents were not living in Arizona at the time of the birth. The mother of a child born out of wedlock has sole physical custody of their child until paternity has been established and a parenting time schedule is in place.
A Father May Lose His Visitation Rights If He’s Been Absent For 6 Months
If a father has established paternity and has either voluntarily or involuntarily been absent from the child’s life for six months, he can lose his visitation rights.
The goal of a parenting plan is to prevent a distance between the child and the non-custodial parent. In order for this to happen, a certain amount of communication by phone or in-person will be necessary as structures are put into place to facilitate the visitation schedule.
A non-custodial parent should not have his/her visitation rights removed after six months due to lack of communication. The problem may lie with one party not following through on making the arrangements themselves or sticking to them instead of attempting a fast mediation that could help bring both parties together.
Grandparents Can Petition For Visitation Rights
Grandparents may petition for visitation rights if there is a pre-existing relationship between them and any of their grandchildren. Grandparents are not permitted to file for visitation rights simply because they are related by blood. However, the relationship should be well documented with proof submitted during the process of filing.
The grandparent must file court forms that set out their reasons for seeking visitation rights. The requirements will vary depending on whether or not the child lives with his/her parents or guardians at this time, as well as how long it has been since the child’s parents have obtained custody of him/her. Once filed, forms must be served upon all parties involved in accordance with Arizona laws regarding service of process.
There is a multitude of reasons grandparents petition for visitation rights with their grandchildren. Reasons include, but are not limited to, the following:
- parenting time was severed by the other parent or it is otherwise no longer seen as beneficial to the grandchild
- parents are unfit or neglectful
- parents are incarcerated or otherwise hindered from spending time with their own children
- one parent has passed away leaving custody in question
Parents Can Create Their Own Parenting Plan
Parents are able to create their own parenting plans. This can make this process much simpler and fast when it comes to setting up the schedule. Parents should outline what they both feel is important for the parent-child relationship in detail within the plan itself.
During the process of divorce, a parenting plan is developed to establish decision-making responsibilities for parents. The parenting plan normally includes who will have primary housing, visitation schedules, transportation arrangements, and how disputes or conflicts are resolved. Some additional factors that may be included in a parenting plan are extracurricular activities, summer vacation plans, major medical decisions, etc.
That’s it for our five fast facts about visitation rights in Arizona. If you would like more information, or if you need help establishing or defending your visitation rights, please give us a call today. Our experienced family law attorneys are here to help you get the best outcome for you and your children. Thanks for reading!
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