Can Grandparents Prevent the Relocation of their Grandchildren?

If you are the grandparents of a child and wish to prevent the relocation of your grandchild please contact your local Arizona Family Law Attorney at Enholm Law, PLLC for a free consultation to discuss the specifics about your case.

Arizona has recognized grandparents’ visitation rights since 1983. Grandparents can petition the court for visitation as long as the child has not been adopted by two parents and visitation is in the child’s best interests. Once these visitation rights are established, they must be followed as a court order. But what happens to these rights if the grandchildren are about to relocate with their parents?

In 2007, a landmark Arizona case established that grandparents lack standing to prevent a relocation of their grandchildren, even those who have established visitation rights under A.R.S. §25-409. Sheehan v. Flower, 217 Ariz. 39, 170 P.3d 288.. Specifically, only legal parents have standing to contest relocation. This does not mean, however, that a grandparent’s rights to visit their grandchildren have no bearing on the relocation whatsoever.

Whenever a parent decides to relocate with children, courts must evaluate the best interests of the children. If the children have a strong bond and loving relationship with their grandparents, courts can find that relocation away from the grandparents is detrimental to the children’s best interests. Of course, that alone is not the only factor to be considered. Courts must consider various competing interests and balance the best interests of the children with the constitutional rights that parents have to relocate.

If a relocation is granted, grandparents can still enforce their visitation rights through contempt proceedings or modify their rights based on a long-distance plan. In some cases, relocation can even be contingent upon continued compliance with grandparents’ visitation rights.

If you are a parent whose children have formal visitation with their grandparents and are contemplating relocation, or if you are a grandparent whose visitation rights are in jeopardy due to a pending relocation, contact an Arizona Family Law Attorney at 602-889-6273 immediately in order to protect your rights.