Arizona legal guardianship
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Arizona legal guardianship form(s) you sign reviewed by a
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...Chances are, you will.
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How does custody get decided as between a parent and a third party?
A third party non-parent such as a grandparent, stepparent, or an adult who has a significant relationship with the child can establish legal rights to custody and access. A grandparent can file an action or join a divorce action between the parents under the Arizona grandparent rights statutes. Typically a grandparent will be able to see the children on the days that their child has access and no special terms are required in the custody orders to insure this. Third parties can establish legal rights by filing a legal action known as in loco parentis, under the Arizona in loco parentis statutes. This in essence legally establishes the party to “be standing in the shoes” of a natural parent.
How does custody get decided as between parents?
In Arizona custody is established either by agreement of the parents or if the parents are unable to agree, the decisions of the court. In either way the court uses a “best interest of the child” standard to determine the final custody and access (visitation) arrangements. If the parties are unable to reach agreements regarding custody the court usually orders the parents to a custody evaluation by which a psychologist or counselor will meet with the parents and children, evaluate the circumstances and inform the judge what arrangements are in the best interest of the children. The judge will make his decision after a review of the evaluator’s report, the testimony of the parties and any relevant witnesses and evidence.
Is there a presumption in favor of not changing custody arrangements?
Not necessarily, under Arizona law custody can be changed. However, there is a one-year waiting period from the date of the last custody/visitation orders, before a party can request a change. However, like most laws, there are exceptions and if it was an emergency situation, the court will modify custody at any time. Of course what a parent considers and emergency may not be considered an emergency by the court. To change a custody order the parent needs to file a petition for modification of custody with the court and show some significant change in circumstance warranting a change. The court will then set a hearing to hear the circumstances alleged to warrant a change and make the appropriate modifications if necessary in accordance with the best interest of the children. It is rare that the court will make a drastic change and usually just make minor changes to the custody orders.
Is there such a thing as "standard visitation"? If so, what is it?
In Arizona the court has established Model Parenting Plan Guidelines. The Model Parenting Plan is broken down by the age of the child and provides several different arrangements per age bracket.
Because each families’ situation is unique it is hard to apply a “one-size-fits-all” approach to visitation and the court will look at each family on a case-by-case basis. However a typical nominal access schedule should be every other weekend, one weekday night, a block of time for summer vacation, and alternating holidays. This should roughly come to about one-third of the year, or approximately 120 days. Parents should be flexible and allow deviation within their schedules, however some parents wish to maintain a strict schedule with little deviation. Of course it is presumed that a more consistent and regular schedule is better for children, especially younger children.
What rules govern cases where the custodial parent wants to move away with the children?
Arizona law requires that if a parent wants to move the children over one hundred miles from their current residence that they most provide written notice to the other parent. If the other parent objects to the relocation the objecting parent must file an objection with the court. The court will set a hearing to determine whether the relocation is in the best interest of the child. In essence custody and visitation is being re-litigated.
What visitation rights do grandparents have, if any?
Grandparents do have rights and Arizona law provides specific rights for grandparents although limited. Typically a grandparent will be able to see the grandchildren during the visitation days of the parent. A grandparent can join a divorce or paternity action to enforce their rights, this is called joinder. A grandparent can obtain visitation rights when the parent (the grandparent’s child) does not assert his or her own visitation rights. Again the court will use a best interest of the children standard when entering orders regarding the grandparents.
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