Grandparents are increasingly concerned about the welfare of their grandchildren. They may see their own children as lacking in parenting skills and find it very difficult to watch their grandchildren suffer abuse or neglect. In certain cases, the parent through which the grandparents claim access may be deceased, unavailable or simply incapable of parenting or providing access to the children. In these instances, grandparents or great-grandparents may seek to establish their own rights to see their grandchildren or great-grandchildren.
The court may grant grandparents or great-grandparents the rights to see their grandchildren if it is in the best interests of the children and one of the following is true: one of the parents is deceased or has been missing for three months; the child or children were born out of wedlock; the marriage of the parents has been dissolved for at least three months; or the grandparents or great-grandparents were in loco parentis (in the place of a parent) in their relationship with the children and a petition for dissolution of marriage or legal separation is pending.
A petition to establish grandparents’ rights is filed with the court. If the court finds that the request for visitation is in the children’s best interests and logistically possible and appropriate, the court shall order visitation by a grandparent or great-grandparent if the child is residing with or spending time with the parent through whom the grandparent or great-grandparent claims access.
Susan M. Schauf prevailed in one of the most important grandparent cases recently heard by the Arizona Supreme Court, winning visitation for the paternal grandparents against the mother’s wishes. See Friedman v. Roels, 244 Ariz. 111, 418 P.3d 884 (Ariz. 2018). As a result of the years of litigation involved in this case, Susan has developed a special expertise in the area of third party rights, concentrating especially in grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ rights.