Arizona Domestic Relations Court Prohibited from Providing Custody Rights to Step-Parents
Arizona law only allows an actual parent to file custody and visitation actions. Can a stepmother seek custody when she has been the primary caregiver for years? The Court of Appeals considered this issue in Olvera v. Superior Court, 815 P. 2d 925 (1991).
Facts of the Case
Mr. Olvera and Mrs. Olvera were married in 1981. Mr. Olvera was the custodial parent for a daughter from a prior marriage. She was 3 years old when Mr. Olvera and Mrs. Olvera married. Mrs. Olvera was the primary caretaker of the girl for the nine years of the marriage. Mr. Olvera and Mrs. Olvera divorced in 1990.
The daughter was 12 years old. Mrs. Olvera claimed that it would be in the child’s best interest if she were awarded custody of the child. The court awarded her temporary custody, over Mr. Olvera’s jurisdictional objections. The Court of Appeals granted special action jurisdiction to determine whether the court could grant custody to a stepparent.
Arizona Law Regarding Custody
Two avenues exist in Arizona law for seeking custody of a minor child. One is domestic relations law. The other is the juvenile code. The requirements for maintaining an action, and obtaining custody, differ significantly in domestic relations court than in juvenile court. Domestic relations law is largely concerned with custody disputes between parents. The juvenile code deals with cases of neglect and abuse that affect the welfare of children.
Stepparents Are Not Parents under Domestic Relations Law
Under the domestic relations law, only parents can file for custody of minor children. A non-parent can only seek custody if the child is not in a parent’s custody. This is consistent with the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act from which Arizona law was derived. If a non-parent wants to acquire custody, she must commence proceedings under the stringent standards of the juvenile code. This protects a parent’s rights.
Intervention by the juvenile court only occurs when a parent neglects or abuses the child. The definition of “parent” does not include a stepparent in domestic relations cases. One Arizona case held otherwise: Bryan v. Bryan, 645 P.2d 1267, 1269-70 (1982). That case held the trial court had jurisdiction to award custody to a stepparent in a dissolution action.
However, the Court of Appeals, in this case, disagreed with the Bryan ruling. It found that the legislature intended to restrict divorce custody awards to children “common to” the couple. That means that courts can only award the custody of children to their natural or adoptive parents. In short, a court has no power to award custody to anyone but a parent under domestic relations laws.
The Court of Appeals ruled that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to award custody to Mrs. Olvera. It reversed the judgment of the trial court. It remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
You should be aware there is an exception to the ruling in this case, which is found in Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-409 if a step-parent or other person has been treated by the child as a parent.
More Articles About Child Custody in Arizona
- Access to a Child’s Medical Records in Arizona
- Adoption Attorneys in Arizona
- Required Affidavit in a Child Custody Case in Arizona
- Are Mothers Favored Custody Battles in Arizona
- Arizona Child Custody Attorneys
- Arizona Child Custody Statutes
- Arizona Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act Statutes
- Changing a Child’s Last Name in Arizona
- Changing Child Custody in Arizona
- Child Custody and Child Support in Arizona
- Child Custody In Arizona
- Child Custody Laws in Arizona
- Child Custody Rights in Arizona
- Co-Parenting After Divorce in Arizona
- Custody of a Child to Grandparent in Arizona
- Delegation of Custody Decisions in Arizona
- Divorce and Grandparents Visitation in Arizona
- Effective Co-Parenting in Arizona
- Emergency Child Custody in Arizona
- Emergency Child Custody Orders in Arizona
- Enforce Parenting Time or Custody in Arizona
- Enforce Visitation Non-Custodial Parent in Arizona
- Grandparent’s Rights in Arizona
- How is Child Custody Determined in Arizona
- How to Change a Child’s Last Name in Arizona
- How to Enforce Parenting Time in Arizona
- How to Get Sole Custody in Arizona
- How to Modify Child Custody in Arizona
- How to Modify Visitation in Arizona
- Joint Custody and School Decisions in Arizona
- Joint Custody vs Sole Custody Arizona
- Joint Legal Custody or Joint Decision Making in Arizona
- Modifying Visitation With a Child in Arizona
- Moving Children Many Times in Arizona
- Order of Protection and Child Custody in Arizona
- Parent Information Program Class in Arizona
- Parent Move Out of State With A Child From Arizona
- Parental Alienation in Arizona
- Prepare for Child Custody Evaluation in Arizona
- Presumption of Equal Parenting Time in Arizona
- Restrictions in Arizona on Taking Children to Another Country
- Sole Legal Custody or Sole Decision Making in Arizona
- Sole or Joint Custody in Arizona
- Temporary Child Custody in Arizona
- Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act in Arizona
- What Are the Child Custody Factors in Arizona
- What Determines Child Custody in Arizona
- What is a Child Custody Evaluation in Arizona
- What is a Parenting Coordinator in an Arizona Child Custody Case
- What Is Domestic Violence in Arizona
- What Types of Child Custody Are There in Arizona
- What Visitation or Parenting Time Schedules do Judges Order in Arizona
- Who Has Custody of Children When a Divorce is Filed in Arizona
- Who Is the Best Child Custody Lawyer in Arizona
- Withholding Child From Custodial Parent in Arizona
Chris Hildebrand wrote the information on this page about the Domestic Relations Law and the obtainment of child custody by stepparents in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about family law in Arizona. Chris is a divorce and family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a divorce should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and, quite frankly, actually caring about what his clients are going through in a divorce or family law case. In short, his practice is defined by the success of his clients. He also manages all of the other attorneys at his firm to make sure the outcomes in their clients’ cases are successful as well.
What’s Hot – Blog