Child Custody And Relocation In Arizona
If you have been divorced, have children subject to a custody order and you find it necessary to move further than 100 miles from your current residence in Arizona or to another state, you will need permission from the court to take your children with you if the other parent opposes the move.
If both parents live in state, and share custody, the parent requesting the relocation must provide written notice to the other parent 60 days in advance.
In a relocation or “move-away” case, the court must make specific findings on the record about the relevant factors and the reasons why the decision is in the children’s best interests, before it can approve the relocation.
The parent who wants to relocate has the legal burden of proving what is in the child’s best interest. If one parent opposes the relocation of a child, Arizona statutes requires “[t]he court shall determine whether to allow the parent to relocate the child in accordance with the child’s best interest[s].”
Best Interest Factors
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. This means the court is 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.
Because 25-408 (the relocation statute) includes all of the 25-403 (11 custody factors), a relocation case, in essence, requires the relitigation of the custody portion of the divorce case.
The rationale for these extensive finding is “not simply to aid appellate review,” as one court noted, but to provide a “baseline” for the family court to “measure any future petitions by either party based on ‘changed circumstances.'”
This is necessary because of how fundamentally the relocation of a child alters the family dynamic and the degree it affects the child-parent relationship. One Arizona case involving a parent in North Carolina and Arizona cautions the family to be “diligent” on the long-distant relationship created by the parenting plan.
Fact, Facts, Facts
Due to the specific and different nature of every custody question, these factors may mix in different degrees, depending upon the parental relationship.
For a parent considering moving, it will be necessary to discuss the factors with your attorney, and provide evidence and argument that will support your desire or need to move. The more fact based the documentation is, the stronger your argument. Generalized assertions that the other parent is unfit or “bad” will be dismissed by the court as of little value absent substantial evidence.
One factor that the courts will examine closely is the second one, whether the move has been proposed (or opposed) in good faith. If the court detects that the move is contemplated in spite, to deny the other parent access to the child or children, it is very likely the request will be denied.
The courts are very sensitive to actions that are not in the best interests of the child and especially if they are motivated by ill will toward the other parent.
A motion for relocation is more likely to be successful if the parent requesting the move can outline for the court how each of the factors support or are neutral in the analysis of the best interest. The more specific evidence you can provide the court on each factor, and demonstrate how they further the best interest, the easier it will be for the court to find in your favor.