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Cases of minor guardianship in Arizona typically result from serious situations that differ from other guardianship issues. As a result, if you are seeking guardianship of a minor, having skilled legal representation is the best way to protect your rights and ensure the best interests of the child involved.

In the State of Arizona, there are two primary ways to establish legal responsibility for a minor: guardianship or non-parent custody. The decision between these two options is typically made during times of great flux in the life of the minor, including the loss of a parent, or a profound change in circumstances for the parents that make them unable to provide a stable home. In fact, many changes will occur for both minors and adults during this process and learning about guardianship options in Arizona is the first step in establishing a secure home for all involved.

How Is Guardianship Defined?

The State of Arizona recognizes guardianship as the commitment and power to make decisions that are important to the welfare and well-being of the child. These decisions may include education, healthcare, living arrangements, and personal decisions. These types of proceedings must occur in Arizona Family Court, and the court will make the final decision. However, a party may be nominated to retain guardianship.

Custody Relocation

What Circumstances Must Be Present for Guardianship Appointment?

There are several elements that must be present in order for a guardianship appointment to proceed. The courts must carefully weigh the qualifications of any party who may desire to become legally responsible for the child. An appointment will only be made if it is in the best interest of the child.

Most importantly, the biological parents’ parental rights must have been suspended, terminated, or abandoned. If either parent still has a claim for custody of the child, guardianship will not be granted to a new party by the courts. Before any new filing for guardianship or custody can occur, the courts must take the time to suspend or terminate any existing parental rights.

Adoption in AZ Guide

Who Can Receive a Guardianship Appointment in Arizona?

If a child is fourteen years or older, they can nominate a guardian for themselves. However, the court may turn down any kind of nomination, including a nomination from the child, for any reason. Ultimately, the court is charged with making a guardianship decision that is in the best interest of the child. Before gaining guardianship of the child, any candidate is required to submit to and pay for a background check and fingerprinting.

In some situations, parents can choose to give guardianship to another party. In the state of Arizona, this is called Consent Guardianship. The parents can give written consent to a non-parent to take over guardianship of the child or children. When the parents give the consent for another person to take over guardianship, their rights are withdrawn immediately upon the filing. However, a non-parent cannot successfully petition the court for guardianship if one of the parents contests the petition. The non-parent may, however, request an establishment of custody through what is called a non-parent custody petition.

Non-Parent Custody

The code for Custody by Non-Parents in Arizona describes which parties may receive custody, and how these parties can receive it. The non-parent must file a Petition for Custody by Non-Parents in the county in which the child is currently living. Included in the petition must be explicit facts that defend the petitioner’s justification for attempting to establish custody.

The following parties must also be notified:

  • The parents of the child
  • A person who has visitation or custody ordered by the court
  • The guardian of the child
  • An agency or individual with custody of the child, or any of those with claims of custody
  • Any entity who may have previously been a part of the petition

As with guardianship, the court has final decision-making power regarding non-parent custody.

Custody will be denied by the courts unless the petitioning party can prove the following to the court:

  • The petitioner is in a situation where they have been acting as the parent for a child, also referred to as in loco parentis
  • The child’s well-being would be harmed significantly by remaining in the custody of their parents, whether the parents would like to gain custody or keep custody
  • A court which retains jurisdiction in matters of child custody has not either approved a petition or entered a petition regarding custody of the child within a year of when the current petitioner is attempting to file, unless it is apparent that the child’s current circumstances are detrimental to their well-being

Other circumstances in which a party may petition for custody of a child include:

  • A legal parent to the child is deceased
  • At the time of the filing of the petition, the legal parents of the child are not married to each other
  • There is currently a proceeding regarding a dissolution of marriage or divorce for the child’s parents at the time the petition is being filed

For the parents to retain custody, the court must find that it is in the best interest of the child or children to remain in the custody of the legal parents due to the emotional, physical, and psychological necessities of the child. Similarly, for the court to award custody to a non-parent, it must be proven with extensive evidence that this custody situation is in the best interest of the child.

What Circumstances Must Be Present for Guardianship Appointment?

A non-parent guardian of a child must provide education, support, and care for the child. In other words, the guardian is required to provide the same things that a parent might in the same situation. These duties include:

  • Managing a healthy relationship with the child, including understanding the child’s needs and other personal requirements
  • Protecting those things that belong materially and physically to the child, whether finances, personal belongings, or other property
  • Providing for the needs, health, education, and care for the child
  • Maintaining a relationship with the courts regarding the progress of the child by providing regular updates

A guardian may also ask for compensation for the aid they offer as a guardian, as well as reimbursement or compensation for provided room and board. Depending on the circumstances, the courts may adjust any of the responsibilities of the guardian to work in the best interests of the child.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Establish Guardianship in Arizona?

While many guardianship circumstances do not require legal representation, retaining a skilled attorney can help you provide the evidence needed to prove your capability to assume custody or guardianship of the child or minor. A lawyer can help to answer any questions that may arise during the process, such as your responsibilities or next steps with the court. Each situation is different, just as each family is different, and guardianship can be difficult to navigate without legal representation.

The legal team at The Valley Law Group, LLC can help you and the minor involved get answers during what can be an exceedingly difficult and stressful time. Ensuring the best interest of the child is as much a concern for us as it is for the courts, and we will help you navigate the court system to protect the child or children in your life. Our personal approach can help to preserve your rights and provide stability and care for a child who requires a change of circumstances.

Contact us today for a free consultation.

Learn More About AZ Juvenile Law

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Carmen Segura
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Wonderful experience knowledge and responsive. Elda and Jonathan were helpful and responsive to all my questions and concerns . I was going to so much stress Elda was great responding to my emails it never took more than 24 hours to get a respond from her. I highly recommend Elda and Jonathan to all my friends and family.
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Catherine Dolan
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Hannah Ridinger
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Dan Palmer
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Simply put, Ryan is outstanding! ! I’ve used his services exclusively for the last 6+ years on multiple custody and visitation cases. After having gone through three less than transparent attorneys before Ryan, it was incredibly refreshing when I found him. He’s courteous, responsive and the utmost professional. Best of all, I feel that I can trust his advice explicitly. A true rarity in this industry! Bottom line: I wouldn’t consider even having a conversation with another attorney!
John Law
John Law
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Ryan did a good job especially considering I didn't have an attorney most of my divorce. I would recommend him, but get him onboard at the beginning not the end.
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