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What Are the Implications of Relocation for Custodial Parents Under Arizona Family Law?

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What is a Custodial Parent?

The term “custodial parent” is used in family law contexts to refer to the parent who has been granted physical custody of a child when the parents are separated. The child permanently lives with the custodial parent, who provides for their food, shelter, and schooling and supervises their day-to-day activities. 

As a Custodial Parent, Can I Relocate with My Child?

If you have been granted primary custody, but the other parent of your child still has parenting time and visitation rights, you will need to follow a legal process before you relocate. This will prevent you from being found in contempt for violating court orders regarding your shared parenting responsibilities. 

What are the Steps I Need to Take to Relocate with My Child?

As a custodial parent, if you are planning to relocate with your child, there are specific steps to take. The notification process before moving is a method of legally respecting the rights of your child’s other parent. 

1. Carefully consider your move. Changing your location and living arrangements can profoundly affect your child’s life. Your child may need to change schools and could lose important friends and relationships they have formed.

2. Notify your child’s other parent. If you feel the move is necessary, send notice of your relocation plan to the other parent. You must provide notice at least 45 days before your move. This may be done using certified mail or with the help of a family law attorney. Note that you only have to send notice to your ex-partner if:

a. You are moving out of state.

b. You are moving more than one hundred miles away.

This process can be entirely avoided if you stay within 100 miles of your current location.

3. Await a response or none. Once you have given notice, the other parent has 30 days to respond. In some cases, the other party may choose to agree to your relocation. If you receive no response after 30 days, it is permissible for you to relocate.

4. Relocate with your child as planned. Now that you have fulfilled your legal responsibility under Arizona Revised Statute § 25-408, you may move with your child without being found at fault.

5. Conditional: Handle any objection. If your former spouse or partner disagrees with your relocation plan and files an objection, you may need to gain court approval or prepare for a child custody case. 

What Do I Do If the Non-Custodial Parent Objects to My Relocation of Our Child?

If the non-custodial parent objects to your relocation plans, you will have to obtain court approval to proceed. With the help of an experienced family law attorney, you can clearly present your case. You will need to prove to the judge that moving away from your current location is truly in the child’s best interest. 

What is Arizona’s “Best Interests of the Child” Standard?

In Arizona, matters of family law regarding children are decided based upon the “best interests of the child,” as defined in Arizona Revised Statute § 25-403. The judge is ordered to consider all factors relevant to the child’s physical and emotional well-being as stated in the law:

A. The court shall determine legal decision-making and parenting time, either originally or on petition for modification, in accordance with the best interests of the child. The court shall consider all factors that are relevant to the child’s physical and emotional well-being, including:

  1. The past, present and potential future relationship between the parent and the child.
  2. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parent or parents, the child’s siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest.
  3. The child’s adjustment to home, school and community.
  4. If the child is of suitable age and maturity, the wishes of the child as to legal decision-making and parenting time.
  5. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
  6. Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with the other parent. This paragraph does not apply if the court determines that a parent is acting in good faith to protect the child from witnessing an act of domestic violence or being a victim of domestic violence or child abuse.
  7. Whether one parent intentionally misled the court to cause an unnecessary delay, to increase the cost of litigation or to persuade the court to give a legal decision-making or a parenting time preference to that parent.
  8. Whether there has been domestic violence or child abuse pursuant to section 25-403.03.
  9. The nature and extent of coercion or duress used by a parent in obtaining an agreement regarding legal decision-making or parenting time.
  10. Whether a parent has complied with chapter 3, article 5 of this title.
  11. Whether either parent was convicted of an act of false reporting of child abuse or neglect under section 13-2907.02.

B. In a contested legal decision-making or parenting time case, the court shall make specific findings on the record about all relevant factors and the reasons for which the decision is in the best interests of the child.

 What Other Factors Should I Be Aware Of When Considering Relocation?

If you are trying to relocate with a child with shared legal custody, the other factors that may come into play include: 

  • Parenting Plan Modifications. When two parents have joint legal custody, a “parenting plan” is created and filed with the court. The parenting plan covers a schedule of parenting times and the sharing of rights and privileges in regard to the children. If you are moving away from the person you are co-parenting with, you may need to make changes to your parenting plan and file this with the court.
  • Grandparent Visitation. Arizona allows grandparents and great-grandparents to petition for visitation rights, even after the parents of their grandchildren are separated. While a grandparent cannot object to your relocation plans, it is still something to consider before moving far away.
  • Custody Order Amendments. As the custodial parent, you have physical custody of your child; your former partner likely has legal custody (the right to visit and participate in the child’s upbringing). If you are planning to move out of state, this may make it difficult for them to exercise legal custody – a factor you may want to consider with your lawyer.

Know Before You Go. Call The Turner Law Firm PLLC

Your well-being and the well-being of your children is important. The Turner Law Firm PLLC can help you move with certainty. Let us assist you in navigating the complex legal process and guide you to the most favorable outcome possible. If you are planning to relocate or to stop another parent from doing so without your consent, call us at (480) 618-1221. We will review the best approach to resolve your family law needs.

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