Temporary Visitation Order for Grandparents in Arizona
Need for Statutory Authority to Grant Grandparents Temporary Orders
It would seem that the actual issue needing to be determined is whether the trial court had statutory (or other appropriate authority) to issue the temporary order for visitation in the case of Lambertus v. Porter. It was concluded that the court did have authority pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute § 25–402, subsection B, paragraph 2, providing that a person other than the legal parent may petition for visitation with the minor child through the Superior Court.
The court considered the request in consideration of the child’s best interests and in pertaining to the child being born out of wedlock and the parents not being married at the time the petition was filed. Arizona Revised Statutes § 25–404(A) (Supp.2013) allows for a party involved in the legal decision making or parenting time proceedings to move for temporary orders. The trial court considered the Grandmother’s intervention in the paternity action as “involvement” in the legal decision making and parenting time proceedings and, therefore, the court of appeals felt she was qualified to file for temporary orders.
The Mother argues that the Grandmother is not a part of the legal decision making and parenting time proceedings as it does not specify “visitation” as being part of the process. While Arizona law specifically identifies that a trial court may grant visitation rights to non-parents at the court’s discretion and according to the child’s best interests, the legal parents’ opinion of what best serves the child should be given extra consideration. Given that information and the fact that no statute gives a trial court the actual legal ability to award visitation to any non-parent at a Temporary Orders proceeding, it was found the court in this particular case acted in excess of its own authority.
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Considering the Plain Language of the Law and Legislative Intent
To summarize, the majority opinion, in this case, appears to be in conflict with the plain language of the law, particular definitions of “parenting time” and “visitation.” It is particularly interesting to point towards the recent revisions of two of the statutes in reference to this case (§ 25–404(A) and § 25–401). Their recent revisions in combination with the constitutional presumptions afforded to parents to raise their children should lead us to conclude that the plain meaning of the terms should be seen as the best indicator of intent unless the verbiage is ambiguous or leads to an interpretation that is obviously inappropriate.
The fact that the legislative scheme names specific classes and/or parties eligible for visitation obviously suggests that the legislature had no intention of granting visitation to third parties not specified. It becomes apparent that the trial court lacked the authority for their decision to grant a temporary order providing visitation to the grandmother and the mother’s request for relief is granted by way of vacating the temporary visitation order.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article 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.