THIRD PARTIES CAN HAVE RIGHTS
Arizona law allows non-parents to petition for rights or visitation with children. These cases are far more complex than ordinary child custody determinations, but our experienced family law attorneys have successfully represented clients on both sides of these cases.
FAST FACTS ABOUT THIRD PARTY RIGHTS
Third party rights refer to a legal action where a third party seeks to establish legal decision-making rights, called legal custody in other jurisdictions, over a child.
Pursuant to A.R.S. § 25-409, petitions for third party rights can only be filed by individuals who stand in loco parentis, which literally means the place of a parent. This means that a parental relationship must already exist with the child before the petition is filed. The most common example may be a step-parent with whom the child lives for a period of time.
Though controlled by the same statute, cases where non-parents seek only visitation are treated a little bit differently. Notably, there is no in loco parentis requirement for third party visitation. Still, it is important to understand that these petitions are not unconditionally granted. Special weight must be given to the parents’ decision to deny visitation.
A non-parent seeking third party rights or visitation must prove that denial would substantially harm the child. This burden is far more imposing than what family courts use to decide ordinary child custody cases. This is because third party cases involve a fit parent’s constitutional right to make decisions for his or her children. Because these cases are more complex than ordinary child custody cases, it is especially important to consult with an experienced family law attorney. If a third party’s petition fails, he or she could be ordered to pay the parents’ attorney’s fees.