The short answer is, “Maybe.” Arizona values children having strong relationships with both parents, and when one parent wants to move away with the children after divorce, maintaining those relationships can be difficult. This is a particularly complicated area of Arizona family law, and the law is constantly evolving. It is best to consult an Arizona family law attorney who is well-versed in the law of custody and parenting time so that they can advise how current law applies to your specific set of facts. At Shaffer Family Law, our attorneys have the expertise to advise you based on your specific circumstances and are available to assist you in making this very important decision.
A parent who wishes to relocate his or her children more than 100 miles from the other parent must follow the procedure found in the Arizona relocation statute known as A.R.S. §25-408. Under this relocation statute, if parents share joint legal decision making, or unsupervised parenting time and both parents reside in the State of Arizona, then the parent seeking relocation must provide the non-moving parent sixty (60) days written notice (by certified mail, return receipt requested) before that parent will be allowed to: 1) relocate the child outside of the state or 2) relocate the child more than 100 miles within the state. Once a parent receives the notice by certified mail, they have thirty (30) days to file a petition requesting the court deny the relocation request.
The court will set an evidentiary hearing when a relocation is opposed. In these situations, the court is faced with determining which parent should now be granted primary physical custody as one parent is moving. These cases rely very heavily on the actual facts and circumstances surrounding the parenting of the children. The court will look at how long the children have lived here, if they are involved in extracurricular activities or have other family members whom they are close to that also remain here. Any and all relevant factors can be considered by the court.
These cases are very difficult for the parents, and also for the courts. Regardless of the court’s ultimate orders, the children’s lives will be altered and they will not maintain the same relationships they were able to prior to a parent moving.
In determining a child’s best interests, Arizona statute § 25-408(I) identifies eight relevant factors the court must consider.
The eight factors from 25-408(I) are:
- The factors under § 25-403.
- Whether the relocation is being made or opposed in good faith and not to interfere with or to frustrate the relationship between the child and the other parent or the other parent’s right of access to the child.
- The prospective advantage of the move for improving the general quality of life for the custodial parent or for the child.
- The likelihood that the parent with whom the child will reside after the relocation will comply with parenting time orders.
- Whether the relocation will allow a realistic opportunity for parenting time with each parent.
- The extent to which moving or not moving will affect the emotional, physical or developmental needs of the child.
- The motives of the parents and the validity of the reasons given for moving or opposing the move including the extent to which either parent may intend to gain a financial advantage regarding continuing child support obligations.
- The potential effect of relocation on the child’s stability.
The statute also demands the court make finding on the record which requires the court to make specific findings on each of these factors and then explain why relocation is, or is not, in the best interests of the child or children.
In essence, a relocation hearing requires the parties to have a custody trial after their divorce has been finalized. The court’s requirement to make specific findings on the record in these cases assists any future court with a baseline measure when a parent claims there are “changed circumstances” requiring a modification of the parenting plan.
As a parent who is seeking to relocate with minor children, it is vital that the particular facts surrounding your situation be discussed with an experienced attorney in order to develop the evidence necessary to support your desire or need to move. The more facts you have, the stronger your argument. Generalized assertions that the other parent is unfit or “bad” will be dismissed by the court unless substantiated with strong evidence.
Bad Faith Intentions by a Parent
A very important factor for the courts to consider are the parent’s intentions behind their request to relocate. If it appears that a parent has requested to relocate with the minor child (children) in order to frustrate the parent/child relationship, the request will likely be denied. It will also be denied if there are any other detectable bad faith motivations behind the request.
Be prepared and informed before you either proceed with a request to relocate, or are opposing a request, and contact our attorneys today at Shaffer Family Law.