Grandparents Cannot Prevent Child Relocation
In considering Sheehan v. Flower, The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled grandparents are not entitled to rights (under A.R.S. Section 25-408) to object to a custodial parent’s out of state relocation with their child. Grandparents cannot prevent child relocation, pursuant to that statute.
After a dissolution of the marriage between Kiley S. Sheehan (“Mother”) and Shawn M. Sheehan (“Father”), Mother was awarded sole legal custody (“legal decision making”), as well as primary physical custody of her minor child. Father was awarded four hours of parenting time every other week with his mother, Lou Ann Flower (“Grandmother”), present as a supervisor of his parenting time.
Grandmother was granted visitation with the child after filing a petition in April 2004 with the court awarding Grandmother four hours of visitation time following Father’s supervised parenting time. It also allowed Grandmother to “have access” during the time when Father “has access” with the child.
In December 2005, Mother advised that she and her child would be moving out to Indiana in order to care for Mother’s ailing relative. Grandmother filed a motion with the superior court of Arizona to prevent Sheehan’s move to Indiana with the minor child. Her motion was based upon Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-408 in which procedural safeguards are granted to a nonmoving parent of a child to object to and possibly prevent the relocation of the child.
Grandmother claimed Mother’s only purpose in relocating the child to Indiana was to prevent Grandmother from exercising visitation with her grandchild. The Superior Court ordered both parties to file briefs explaining how the specified law (Section 25-408) would apply to grandparent visitation rights in relation to a parent’s request to relocate to another state.
After considering all the pertinent information, the Superior Court concluded Arizona Revised Statute Section Section 25-408 does not apply to grandparent visitation rights. As a result, the court directed the parties to participate in a conference call to discuss Grandparents long-distance visitation plans. The court also set a date for trial in case the parties could not reach an agreement on Grandparent’s long-distance visitation.
At trial, Grandmother’s visitation schedule was ordered by the court. She appealed the order. Arizona On appeal, Grandmother claimed the trial court misinterpreted Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-408 and that she is, in fact, entitled to the procedural rights and safeguards afforded by the statute to prevent Mother from relocating to Indiana with her grandchild.
The Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the superior court’s determination that Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-408 does not apply grandparents. The law states that advanced notice and related rights are afforded to a “parent” when their custody or “parenting time” will be impacted by the primary residential parent’s relocation.
The Arizona Court of Appeals held that the common meaning of the language, similar statutes, and case law all point to “parent” being distinct from (and excluding) a “grandparent.” Thus the plain language of Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-408 does not apply to Flower’s grandparent visitation. She was not, therefore, entitled to avail herself of the protection to prevent relocation provided for in Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-408.