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Guardianship and Non-Parental Custody

Posted By Legal Team | April 25 2022 | Child Custody, Third-Party / Grandparents' Rights

Though rare, it may be possible for someone other than a child’s legal parent to obtain legal decision-making rights as well as custody of a child. There are various prerequisites that must be established before a non-parent can obtain any type of guardianship or custody over a child. Often, we see these situations arise with a stepparent or a grandparent, but it may be possible for a third-party to obtain guardianship as well. At the Law Office of Karen A. Schoenau, out Scottsdale child custody lawyers have experience and skill in handling a range of complex third-party custody cases.

Guardianship for Arizona Children

Legal guardianship in Arizona refers to the family court system awarding sole responsibility and care of personal decisions for a child or a minor to a particular individual. After guardianship has been appointed, that person will be considered a “ward” of the children. Often, this is commonly a stepparent or another relative seeking guardianship, which can occur for a variety of reasons. Our Scottsdale grandparent custody attorney has handled cases with a grandparent seeking rights in Arizona.

Children and minors under the age of 14 in the state of Arizona will be appointed a guardian or ward until the court decides what is in the best interest of the child. For those over the age of 14, they have the option of nominating their own guardian. Any individual can serve as a guardian, but they must be approved by the family court after a background check that takes a close examination of various issues, including criminal history.

Ways A Person Can Be Awarded Guardianship

  1. An individual could be selected through a last will and testament of another person.
  2. An individual can be nominated and petitioned through the family court system by another individual interested in the minor’s well being (or the minor themselves if they are 14 years of age or older).

Regardless of how a guardianship is awarded, the parents of the minor are required to consent to the guardianship in writing before the ward can be appointed. If there is any concern that the guardianship will be contested by one or both parents, then the other option of gaining authority over the minor is through the non-parental custody route.

Why Does Non-Parental Custody Occur?

For a non-parental custody situation to move forward in Arizona, the following conditions are required:

  • One or both parents have either passed away or gone missing for more than three months.
  • Legal parents are either separated, divorced, or are going through the process of annulling their marriage.

In these situations, a non-parent must prove that they currently stand “in loco parentis,” which means that they have already taken on the duties of parenting the child. This includes non-emergency duties, essential decision-making duties surrounding education and health care of the child, and any other common parental duties.

The potential non-parental custody unit must also prove that there is a positive relationship between themselves and the child, similar to one that should be present in a parent-child relationship. Additionally, Arizona law is going to consider the best interests of the child when determining whether or not to award non-parental custody. Keeping this in mind, the family court must be convinced that awarding custody to a non-parent is best for the child on a significant level, meaning the child will suffer from abuse or neglect at the hands of their legal parents if the situation remains the same without guardianship. 

Legal Help From Arizona Family Law Firm

Filing for legal guardianship can be complex and each individual case can be very different. Working with a Scottsdale guardianship lawyer can assist you through the process and ensure the legal requirements are met to fit the best interest of the child. Reach out to the Law Office of Karen A. Schoenau by calling (480) 467-3435 today or contact us online to schedule a free consultation of your case and find out how our Scottsdale family law attorney can help.

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