A Practical Guide to Visitation Rights in Arizona

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If you are an Arizona resident who is going through a divorce, you may be wondering about your visitation rights. How much time will your children spend with each parent? What if one parent wants to move out of state? In this guide, we will provide a practical overview of visitation rights in Arizona. So, whether you are just starting the divorce process or are already in the middle of it, read on for information that can help you navigate this difficult time.

What Are Visitation Rights?

Visitation, also known as parenting time, is a parent’s right to spend reasonable periods of time with their children. These periods are ordered by the court or agreed upon by parents in visitation agreements.

Why Is Being Granted Visitation Rights Important?

Parents with visitation rights are able to see their children and spend time with them. Their visitation rights may be formally ordered through court order or informally agreed upon by both parents.

Arizona visitation rights can be negotiated between the parents themselves without going to court. If both parties cannot come to an agreement, either parent can petition the court for visitation rights if they have a legal basis for visitation as outlined in Arizona Revised Statute 25-409 through 25-451.   

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What Is The Importance Of Custody Orders In Relation To Visitation Rights?

It is important to have visitation rights ordered through either visitation agreements or visitation orders by the court.    A visitation agreement can be enforced by one parent against another whereas visitation orders are enforceable by law enforcement agencies if necessary.

Custody orders refer to the legal decision made by the court about who has legal custody of the child. Legal custody refers to who makes major decisions on behalf of a minor child. Arizona law uses the term “legal custody” in place of visitation. True visitation is referred to as parenting time.

A visitation order may include both legal custody and visitation terms. This document will be referring to visitation when talking about an order for visitation only. This document will be referring to both visitation and legal custody when discussing parenting plan documents, where parents have visitation rights in addition to legal custody of the child.

When Can Visitation Be Denied?

Under Arizona law, any non-custodial parent has visitation rights unless there is clear and convincing evidence that visitation would be detrimental to either the best interests of the child or if visitation poses an immediate danger or threat of violence towards the other parent or child. 

It is possible for one parent to argue that visitation should not be allowed if they believe it will interfere with their relationship with their new spouse, but there must be evidence to support this claim.

In Arizona, visitation is not automatic when joint physical custody is ordered. The custodial parent does not have to agree with visitation and can deny visitation if there are valid reasons for doing so.

When Does Visitation Automatically Terminate?

Visitation rights automatically end when a child turns 18 years of age unless set out in order for extended visitation rights beyond age 18.   Visitation rights may also be terminated when a party abandons, chronically neglects, or threatens seriously to mistreat the child; if there has been an adjudication that any party abused or neglected the child; when a father demonstrates that he is not the biological father; and in cases where there is no presumptive right, visitation rights can be denied to a parent who has not been allowed parenting time.

How Do I Request Visitation?

In Arizona, if a party desires visitation or parenting time with a child and does not have a legal right to visitation, he/she must file an action in court seeking visitation rights.   In order for the Court to grant visitation, there must be sufficient evidence that allowing visitation is in the best interest of the child.    

A party should also consider filing for child support at the same time as filing for visitation.   However, it is possible to seek visitation without requesting parental responsibilities (i.e., custody and/or financial responsibility).  To file for visitation rights visit your local courthouse or consult a qualified family law attorney.

Can Grandparents Request Visitation Rights?

Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-409 states visitation rights may be ordered for grandparents if visitation is in the best interest of the child. If visitation between a grandparent and child has occurred or been allowed, it is much more likely that visitation will be ordered.

The level of involvement by the grandparent in caring for and financially supporting the child can also impact visitation requests. A court would likely find visitation to be in the best interest of the child if one or both parents are deceased, incarcerated, addicted to drugs or alcohol, abusive, living overseas, or have some other significant barrier to parenting their own children.

Who Needs To Establish Paternity And How Is It Done?

In Arizona, there are two ways to establish paternity: consent or court order. The simplest way is voluntarily signing a claim of paternity form at the hospital when your child is born. If you did not sign a claim of paternity form at the hospital, you can still sign one later and have it filed with the Office of Vital Records in Phoenix.

It is usually an unmarried father who has to establish paternity but when a child is born within a marriage, the husband of the mother is presumed to be the father. A man who has no children with his wife can go into court and ask that this presumption not apply to him.

If there is no other reason to believe that he is not the biological father of whose children he might seek visitation rights, such as another child born before or after his marriage, remarriage or adoption of one or more children after divorce, then he will be designated as the father by “voluntary acknowledgment”.

A couple with problems establishing paternity may want counseling and recommend therapy to help resolve their issues and establish visitation rights.

Can I Modify The Visitation Rights Agreement?

If you and your spouse are divorced, but share custody of your kids you still have visitation rights for holidays and summer vacations. In visitation rights, if one parent has visitation for a term of years, or until the child is emancipated, it does not terminate upon an order from the court to share visitation with parents who have been divorced.

In cases where one parent wishes to change visitation rights, visitation will be modified as long as there is a substantial change in circumstances and that visitation rights shall conform with the best interests of the child and the welfare of the public.

A noncustodial parent has visitation rights under any decree or judgment relating to legal separation or marital dissolution entered by a court of another state that grants visitation privileges to an Arizona resident having custody of a minor child which are substantially equivalent to those established by court order in this

If you cannot agree on who should have visitation with the child, either parent may file an action for visitation rights in Arizona Superior Court asking that child visitation be established along with a visitation plan. In this situation, it’s up to a judge to decide what visitation schedule would work best for your family situation.

To start this process, either parent will need to file a petition with Child Support Services. You may want to contact an Arizona family law attorney to prepare the visitation petition for you.

Visitation rights are a touchy subject, and we know that. But they’re important for the health of your family – so it’s worth taking the time to learn more about them. We can help you learn all there is to know about visitation rights in Arizona and how they pertain to custody orders and child support agreements. If you need our assistance with this process or any other aspect of divorce law, please don’t hesitate to call us today!

Are You Looking for a Family Law Attorney You Can Trust?

The attorneys at GillespieShields are well-versed in a variety of different legal fields, ranging from family law to civil suits, employment disputes and probate cases. Although we specialize in several areas of practice, our greatest passion is family law. We believe in giving families peace of mind no matter their situation, and we fight hard to maintain that peace. Whether you’re filing for dissolution or divorce, determining custody of your children, or thinking about adopting children, our experienced attorneys are here to help you every step of the way.  During our private, one-on-one consultation, we’ll take the necessary time to answer all of our questions surrounding Arizona’s family laws, your family’s unique situation, and the possible court outcomes. Contact us today for your consultation!


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