Close this search box.

Grandparent Visitation Rights Upheld In Arizona Court Case

Print Article
Grandparent visitation rights


In June of 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Troxel v. Granville, concerning the rights of grandparents to secure court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren. In the wake of that case many observers predicted that no such right could survive. Arizona’s Court of Appeals last week disagreed, and upheld Arizona’s law giving visitation rights to at least some grandparents.

Robert and Christy Thon had two children before their marriage broke up in 1994. Christy retained custody of the children, but in 1997 Robert’s mother Sandi Tangreen successfully petitioned the Yavapai County court in Prescott for visitation.

Arizona law (Arizona Revised Statutes section 25-409) permits a grandparent to request court-ordered visitation in three circumstances:

If the parents have been divorced for at least three months, or
If one parent has been missing for at least three months, or
If the child was born out of wedlock.

The trial judge found that the basic requirements had been met, and that visitation would be in the children’s best interests. Visitation was ordered and continued for the next year.

By 1998 Christy had married Steven Jackson, and her new husband wanted to adopt the children. Robert, their father, agreed, and the adoption was shortly completed. The Jacksons then sought to terminate Ms. Tangreen’s rights to visitation.

The trial court determined that adoption by a stepparent does not terminate the biological grandparents’ right to visitation, and ordered that the visits continue. While the Jackons’ appeal was pending the U.S. Supreme Court decided Troxel v. Granville.

The Arizona Court of Appeals, in a decision filed the day after Christmas, decided that the U.S. Supreme Court opinion did not control their decision. Noting that the Supreme Court decision had been divided (a 6-3 vote had found Washington State’s similar statute unconstitutional), the Arizona court reasoned that the defects in the Washington statute are not found in Arizona’s law.

The Court of Appeals pointed to several distinctions between the two state statutes. Among the differences:

Washington applied its visitation rights to any interested person, but Arizona’s statute is limited to grandparents and great-grandparents.
Arizona law only permits visitation orders in cases of divorce, missing parents or out-of-wedlock births.
Arizona’s statute requires the trial court to consider “all relevant factors” in determining the child’s best interests.

Jackson v. Tangreen, December 26, 2000. Arizona’s grandparent visitation statute has survived its first challenge in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Troxel. This area of the law, however, is far from finally settled.

Stay up to date

Subscribe to our Newsletter to get our takes on some of the situations families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities find themselves in. These posts help guide you in the decision making process and point out helpful tips and nuances to take advantage of. Enter your email below to have our entries sent directly to your inbox!

Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

Famous people's wills

Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.