Third Party Rights to Child Custody


Children often form close, parent-child type bonds with adults other than their biological or adoptive parents, including grandparents, step-parents, adult siblings, uncles, aunts, or others who have acted in a parental role. Arizona law calls this relationship “in loco parentis,” or someone who has been treated as and/or acted as a parent for a substantial period of time, and has formed a meaningful relationship with the child.

These third parties have legal rights and may be entitled to visitation or custody, but new case law has made it more difficult for the court to grant third parties these privileges. Rader Law Firm can help you develop a strong case for visitation or custody.

Call our Scottsdale family lawyers at if you are seeking third party visitation or custody, or if you are a parent looking to block third party visitation.


Custody of a child refers to who has the right to make decisions about health, well-being, and education (legal custody), and with whom the child lives (physical custody). The court recognizes that custody should have the child’s best interests in mind, and that is not always with the biological or adoptive parents (“legal parents” whose rights have not been terminated).

A third party who has stood in loco parentis to the child, such as a grandparent or step-parent, may file a petition for custody with the court establishing that they have acted as a parent and formed a strong bond, that it would be harmful or detrimental to the child for either of the legal parents to have custody, and a court has not ruled on the child’s custody in the past year.

One of the following conditions must also be true at the time of the petition:

  • One of the child’s legal parents has died
  • The legal parents are not currently married to each other
  • The legal parents are in the process of divorcing or legally separating

Generally, the presumption is that it is in a child’s best interest to remain with the legal parent or parents, so a third party must provide convincing evidence against this. Our highly skilled attorneys can help you prepare a strong argument on either side.


Visitation refers to physical time spent with a child. A person who has been in loco parentis may file for visitation rights if they do not have custody of the child. Similar to filing for custody, the person must show that visitation would be in the child’s best interest and that one of the legal parents has died or has been missing for more than three months, the legal parents are not married, or the legal parents are in the process of a divorce or legal separation.

To reach a decision on visitation, the court considers the opinion of the legal parent(s), as well as:

  • The relationship history between the child and the third party
  • The third party’s motivation or reason for requesting visitation
  • The motivation behind any objections to visitation
  • How much visitation time is requested, and the impact on the child’s schedule
  • Any benefits to maintaining an extended-family relationship when one or both legal parents have died

Contact our Scottsdale divorce lawyers at Rader Law Firm for highly qualified representation in third-party visitation and custody cases. Together we have more than four decades of experience practicing family law in Paradise Valley and the greater Phoenix area. Hablamos español.

Rader Law Firm can help you fight for your rights. Reach our offices at now.

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