It is rather common for a child’s parent to wish to relocate to another city or state in search of a new beginning, a career opportunity or simply to stay closer to family. However, even if the parent has parenting time, there are a few steps that need to be taken before going ahead with the move. Our family law attorneys explain the key aspects you need to take into consideration when planning a move to another city or out of state.

What Do the Arizona Child Custody Laws Say Regarding Relocation?

Arizona child custody laws (legal decision making & parenting time) prescribe that the parent wishing to relocate carries the burden of proof to demonstrate that the move is in the child’s best interest, and it will be up to the court to decide whether to allow the relocation or not. The parent is required to notify the other parent in writing no less than 45 days before the intended date of relocation if planning to relocate the child to another state or more than one hundred miles within the state.

Because a relocation has the potential to affect the court-approved parenting plan and reduce the non-custodial parent’s time with the child, a court will need to investigate the impact on custody and the child’s quality of life. Failure to provide the required notice of relocation may weigh negatively in court and result in sanctions that may affect a parent’s ability to make decisions regarding the child.

Can My Former Spouse Keep Me From Relocating With My Child?

By law, a court may not stop a parent from moving away by themselves without bringing the child. However, the non-custodial parent is allowed to petition the court to prevent the relocation of the child. This must be done within 30 days of receiving the notice of relocation, otherwise, the nonmoving parent must present strong reasons to stop the child from relocating.

The exception for this rule is if the original court-mandated child custody arrangements included a provision stating that the child would be relocated within one year of said arrangements being signed and the move had already been agreed upon by all parties. Ultimately, it will be up to a judge to decide whether the move will negatively impact the child or not.

What Factors Will a Judge Use When Deciding Whether to Allow a Parent to Relocate with a Child?

The child’s best interests will always be at the forefront of many factors a judge may use to decide whether to allow or prohibit a parent from moving away with the child.

These factors may include:

  • Whether the move is being made in good faith and not in an effort to interfere with the child’s relationship and time with the other parent;
  • Whether the move will present substantial opportunities to improve the general quality of life for the custodial parent and the child;
  • Whether the relocation will allow for a fair arrangement of parenting time with the nonmoving parent, and whether the custodial parent is willing to comply with parenting time orders after the move;
  • The parent’s reasons for moving and whether the move will present enough benefits that may outweigh the benefits of the current parenting plan;
  • The nonmoving parent’s reasons for petitioning the court to deny the relocation;
  • Each parent’s physical and mental health, ability to provide for the child, and any history of domestic or child abuse when applicable.

There are many other factors a judge may take into consideration when deciding to grant or deny a relocation with a child. Likewise, a judge will also look into whether a nonmoving parent is petitioning the court in good faith and presenting valid reasons to stop the child from relocating with the other parent.

At What Age Will Arizona Law Allow a Child to Decide Where They Want to Live?

Arizona law does not prescribe an exact age for a child to be considered mature enough to express their wishes regarding which of the parents they would rather live with. Instead, courts are expected to consider the child’s wishes as one of many factors used to decide whether the move should be authorized or not.

The child must demonstrate sufficient maturity and age to express his or her opinions to a court. Many judges will consider a child’s interview when the child is at least 12 years old and may require the child to be interviewed in chambers or through conciliation services provided by the court, and away from the courtroom to minimize the impact of any conflict between the parents in the courtroom.

How Can a Family Law Attorney Help Me?

As you can see, a parent wishing to relocate with their child within state limits or outside of Arizona cannot simply pack up and leave, as this can result in serious consequences and loss of decision-making power and even parenting time. You are required to provide written notice to your former spouse, and he or she may petition the court to deny your relocation. 

This process can quickly become complicated, as the parent wishing to relocate must provide sufficient evidence for a court to decide that the move caters to the child’s best interests. In this case, having a knowledgeable family law attorney on your team may help make the entire process easier and increase your chances of a favorable outcome. If you need help with your child custody or relocation issues, contact Arizona Family Law Attorneys for a free case evaluation.