The Arizona Supreme Court recognizes that in many cases, stepparents play an important role in raising a child. When a child's legal parent and stepparent get a divorce in Arizona, stepparents can petition for visitation rights. If visitation rights are granted, the stepparent can request a modification for increased visitation rights.
But getting increased visitation days with a stepchild is no simple feat. Generally, the court will give preference to what the natural parents want.
Still, when making a decision about modifying a stepparent visitation order, the court takes a host of factors into account.
In the family law context, the court is always guided by the best interests of the child. So a court can increase a stepparent's visitation rights if it determines that increased stepparent visitation is in the best interest of the child.
To figure out whether increased visitation is in the child's best interest, the court will consider many factors, including:
- Personal involvement. How involved the stepparent is in the child's life.
- Length of relationship in parental role. How long the stepparent filled the role of the child's natural parent.
- Emotional relationship. How close -- emotionally, not physically -- the stepparent and child are to each other.
- Financial contributions. How much financial support the stepparent provided to the child.
- Detriment to child. How much harm, if any, the child will suffer if the increased visitation isn't granted.
The last factor is very important in cases where a biological parent is opposed to a request for increased stepparent visitation. The court will give preference to the biological parents' wishes.
But since the sage family law rule is the "best interests of the child," a stepparent can try to overcome that preference by showing the court that denying increased visitation will be detrimental to the child. If the denial of increased stepparent visitation could hurt the child's happiness, sense of security, mental health, or emotional development, the court can take that into consideration.