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Arizona woman's custody case implicates grandparents' rights

Parenting is not always an easy task. As parents are trying to provide for their children, other family members may have differing ideas about how to best meet their needs. At times, this can create family tension, but the hope is that families can ultimately work together to allow children to thrive.

An Arizona woman had no idea that a multi-state custody dispute would erupt when she left her 5-year-old child with her parents in Ohio. The woman visited her parents in 2012 and returned to Arizona for a short time -- by herself -- to complete a job interview. By the time she made it back to Ohio, she found out that her father, the child's grandfather, had filed for and won an ex parte petition for custody.

Of course, this sent the woman for a loop. She attempted to reclaim custody, saying the case didn't belong in Ohio since she and child were both Arizona residents. After an Ohio appeals court denied the woman's custody petition, the state's supreme court eventually found in favor of the mother.

One of the biggest factors in this case was that the child has autism. The court deemed that prolonging a legal struggle would be detrimental to the child's development. In this type of custody case, the best interests of the child are most important.

In addition to child custody issues, this case also raises questions about grandparents' rights. Arizona family law doesn't formally lay out the rights of grandparents to custody or visitation, but there are situations in which emergency motions for custody can be filed. They will be approved if the court determines that the immediate health and well-being of the child requires a change in custody. This is the type of motion the grandfather in this case initially filed for.

Children can benefit from spending time with their grandparents. The hope is, however, that visitation or similar arrangements can be made without going through a lengthy court battle. However, the most important thing is that children receive the attention and care they need.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Grandfather Shouldn't Have Won Custody," Jeff. D. Gorman, Dec. 24, 2013

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