Being stuck in any kind of argument with an ex can be frustrating and difficult, but it’s a thousand times worse when it’s over whether or not your child will be taken out of the state. No parent should be without their child and the law makes it difficult for somebody to just up and leave with your kid.

To understand what options are available we’ll first take a look at the legal way for your ex to take the child out of Arizona and what can be done about it. Since somebody can leave illegally, we’ll also look at what that means from a legal standpoint, as well as what actions you should take if your ex does leave illegally.

How Does Physical or Legal Custody Affect Relocation?

Before you can do anything to stop your ex from leaving Arizona with your child, you must first have some form of either legal or physical custody. Physical custody means that the child lives with you. Legal custody means that you have the right to make decisions about the child’s life. In many cases, you’ll have joint legal or physical custody with your ex.

If your ex chooses to move somewhere in the same city or nearby, then the courts won’t get involved. But if they’re looking to relocate with the child then they have to notify you 45 days prior to the move. This notification has to be done through an official channel such as certified mail, so instant messages or emails won’t count legally.

You can file a petition to prevent the relocation so that a judge has to evaluate the specifics of the case. During this time it is best to work with a family law attorney that can help you gather evidence and build a case as to why your ex shouldn’t be allowed to take your child out of the state.

But if your ex chooses to take your child out of Arizona without going through the proper legal channels, then they’re breaking a number of laws. Let’s look at these next.

What Happens If My Ex Illegally Moves out of Arizona with My Child?

If your ex is trying to leave the state with your child illegally then they’re going to likely end up committing parental kidnapping. But before they do that, there is a very good possibility that they’ll also be guilty of custodial interference.

Custodial interference happens when one parent attempts to deny another parent their custody rights. This crime can be quite mild, such as when one parent refuses to let the other see them for a holiday because they had something planned for the kid. But it can also be quite serious, such as when your ex tries to kidnap your child and therefore deny you your physical or legal custody rights.

Parental kidnapping occurs when your ex takes your child out of state, or when they relocate more than 100 miles away without legal permission. Parental kidnapping is a very serious crime that can be punishable by up to four years in prison, probation, and a fine of up to $150,000.

But knowing that your ex will be punished for taking your child only helps you to prevent it from happening again. Let’s go over what steps you can take immediately following your ex taking your child out of state.

What Steps Should I Take if My Ex Takes My Child to Relocate Out of State Illegally?

The steps you should take when your ex is taking your child illegally are:

  • Call the Police: The most important thing in this situation is to ensure that the child is safe. This is best handled by calling the police and informing them of the situation. They’ll do their best to get your child home safely.
  • Contact a Family Law Attorney: A family law attorney will help you in pressing charges against your ex. These will help to prevent them from trying the criminal behavior again. An experienced family law attorney also has many useful contacts from years of working within family law and these may provide further assistance with the situation and with coping with the mental and emotional strain that comes with it.
  • Contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has lots of resources to help keep children safe and that includes your own children. They’ll be able to speak to you further on what steps and options they have that can help you to reunite with your child.
  • File Criminal Charges: Your ex has committed a crime and charges need to be filed. This goes along with the work that you’ll do with your family law attorney and they’ll be able to better inform you on the right time to level charges.
  • File a Complaint in Family Court: You can have your attorney file a complaint in the family court on your behalf.

Additionally, if your ex is taking your child out of the country then you’ll want to contact the U.S. State Department about the situation as well.

When Should I Get a Family Law Attorney to Help?

It’s almost never too soon to reach out and speak with a family law attorney. When you first contact an attorney, they’ll invite you to fill them in on exactly what is happening. If it was too soon for their help, they’ll let you know.

But in many cases, the sooner you begin working with an attorney, the better you’ll find their help to have been. It’s always easier to get a jump on a situation as it is developing. Being proactive rather than reactive.

If you are worried about your ex moving out of state, or if they’ve already tried to relocate with your child, reach out to Arizona Family Law Attorneys to see how we can help you keep your family safe.