The right of a step-parents regarding legal decision- making (custody) with minor children is controlled by A.R.S. section 25-409. A step-parent would be petitioning the court for that right pursuant to an ”in loco parentis” theory. In loco parentis is defined in A.R.S. section 25-401(1) as “a person who has been treated as a parent by a child and who has formed a meaningful parental relationship with a child for a substantial period of time.”
The step-parent must stand “in loco parentis’, and the court must find that it would be significantly detrimental to the child to remain or be placed in the care of either legal parent who wishes to keep or acquire legal decision-making. There also must not have been a court order regarding legal decision-making or parenting time within one year, absent reason to believe the child’s present environment would seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health. At least one other factor must apply; either one of the legal parents must be deceased, the child’s legal parents are not married at the time the petition is filed or a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the legal parents is pending.
As a step-parent you should be certain to discuss these issues and your concerns with an experienced family law attorney.
The Law Firm of Jessica M. Cotter, P.L.L.C.
18301 North 79th Avenue, Suite F-168
Glendale, Arizona 85308