Understanding Arizona Child Visitation Laws

arizona child visitation lawsWhen you are going through a divorce or separation and there are young children involved, the process can become complicated and emotional. One of the most important parts of the divorce process is ensuring that custody arrangements and visitation rights are established. Arizona has recently been given a grade of “A” by the National Parents Organization for how well the state handles issues child custody, with both parents regularly having equal access to their child.

What does visitation have to do with child custody?

Visitation rights are part of child custody agreements. Also referred to as “parenting time,” the state of Arizona has a list of guidelines in place that explain a person’s rights as the biological parent of their child. Parents have the right to continue to have a close relationship with their children in the aftermath of a divorce. Even if they do not have joint (or shared) custody, they will usually still be allowed visitation rights.

There are two types of custody – physical custody and legal custody. When we discuss visitation, we are going to look at what the physical custody arrangements are. Parents can have either joint custody or sole custody of their children. If one parent has sole custody, they generally cannot keep the other parent from seeing their child.

What goes into determining visitation or parenting time in Arizona?

When determining visitation rights, the courts will always rule in favor of what is in the best interests of the child. When determining what is in the child’s best interests, they will look at several factors. Some of these include:

  • Whether the parents are fit to care for the child
  • Both parents’ desire to continue their relationship with the child
  • Whether the parents are able to follow the parenting plan
  • If the parents are able to come to an agreement before the court must order one
  • Whether the visitation agreement is in the child’s best interest

The family court system wants to ensure that the child has the stability and consistency of both parents in their life if possible and that the child will benefit and develop by having a relationship with both parents.

Arizona law prohibits anyone in the child’s life from prohibiting visitation rights because of a failure of one parent to pay child support. Parenting time and child support are two separate legal issues in Arizona. Similarly, if one parent denies the other their visitation rights, the denied parent must still continue to make child support payments.

The family law court in Arizona encourages both parents to participate in and encourage the other parent to participate in the child’s activities (sports, band, etc.) and to have phone or email contact with the child regularly when the other parent has custody.

Click here to find out why Arizona ranks near the top for child custody rules.

What about third-party visitation rights?

Most states, including Arizona, give significant authority to biological parents when it comes to determining who gets visitation rights for the child. There are times when grandparents and great grandparents are permitted to request legal visitation rights. However, this usually only happens by court order if:

  • It is in the best interests of the child
  • The parents are divorces
  • One parent is deceased or missing
  • The child was born out of wedlock

Grandparents are typically allowed to visit with their grandchild during their daughter/son’s legal custody or visitation time. There are cases in which stepparents, uncles/aunts, or sibling visitation rights are awarded in Arizona.

If you are going through a divorce or separation, consider securing help from an Arizona child custody attorney to help you navigate the complex processes involved.