Can I file for legal decision-making of a child if I am not the parent?
Four conditions must be met for a non-parent to apply for legal decision-making rights or placement of the child:
1) The person who is filing must stand “in loco parentis” to the child.1 To be “in loco parentis,” a person must have:
- been treated as a parent by the child; and
- formed a meaningful parental relationship with the child for a substantial period of time;2
2) The petitioner must prove that it is detrimental (harmful) to the child to remain in the custody of either legal parent who wishes to keep or acquire (get) legal decision-making;
3) No court has entered or approved an order concerning legal decision-making or parenting time within the previous one year before the petitioner files (unless there is reason to believe the child’s present environment may seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health); and
4) One of the following situations applies:
- One of the parents is dead;
- The parents are not married to one another at the time of filing; or
- The parents are involved in a separate legal proceeding regarding divorce or legal separation.1
Even though it may be difficult to get legal decision-making over a child if you are a child’s relative (other than a parent), you may be able to get visitation if you are a grandparent, great-grandparent, or another (non-parent) third party. See Can a grandparent (or other non-parent third party) get visitation? for more information.
1 A.R.S. § 25-409(A)
2 A.R.S. § 25-401(1)