Relocation In Arizona Child Custody Cases

If you currently have custody orders, you may be grateful to settle into a routine besides meetings with lawyers, hearings, and the other legal appointments involved with a custody matter. But if either parent ever wants to relocate and the other doesn’t agree, it can send the custody arrangement into a dispute. Read on to learn more about relocation in child custody cases in Arizona. For a free consultation with a skilled family law lawyer in Maricopa County, call 480-680-9126.

Lawyers shaking hands over a desk with legal scales, representing professional collaboration in child custody cases

Child Custody In Arizona

Before learning about relocation in custody cases, it is important to understand custody distinctions as they pertain to Arizona law. Arizona divides custody into two separate types: legal decision-making and parenting time. Legal decision-making, or legal custody, is a parent’s authority to make decisions for their child. Which medical treatments a child receives, which school a child attends, and more fall under the realm of legal decision-making. Parenting time, or physical custody, is the amount of time the child is under each parent’s care. When one parent has either type of custody alone, it is called “sole custody.” When the parents split custody, it is called “joint custody.” For example, let’s say one parent is stationed overseas and can’t plausibly care for the child during their deployment, but still is involved in the child’s life. Here, the parents might share joint legal custody with the other parent having sole physical custody, at least during the deployment. In Arizona, family law judges are to operate under the presumption that it is in the child’s best interest to split custody between the parents, but presumptions can always be rebutted. If you have additional questions about how child custody works in Arizona, call 480-680-9126 to schedule your free consultation with one of our experienced family law lawyers. 

Arizona Revised Statutes Section 25-408

Arizona’s rules for relocation when parents share joint custody of a child are listed in A.R.S. § 25-408. This applies to parents with joint parenting time and/or legal decision-making rights. Some states might require that parents with joint custody obtain permission from the other parent or the court before making plans to relocate. Arizona, however, only requires that a parent provide 45 days advance notice. Notice must be provided if the parent plans to relocate the child out of state or more than 100 miles within the state. The notice should be provided by certified mail with return receipt requested. A parent who doesn’t provide the legally-required notice can be sanctioned by the court. If the parents’ custody order provides for relocation, this process becomes unnecessary. 

Examples Of Sanctions In Family Law Cases

  • Fines
  • Reprimands and warnings
  • Contempt of court charges
  • Reimbursement of the other party’s legal fees
  • Modifications of existing child custody orders
  • Adverse inferences against the non-compliant party
  • Wage garnishment and property liens (child support)

Petition To Prevent Relocation

A parent who has been notified of the other parent’s relocation will have 30 days to object to the relocation. After the 30 days have passed, the court will only hear a petition to prevent relocation if there is a showing of cause. Both parents are expected to continue complying with court orders after a relocation, including paying child support and allowing scheduled phone calls and other visitation. 

While a petition to prevent the relocation of a child is pending, there are provisions to allow for expected and unexpected- but unavoidable- life changes. A parent with sole custody rights or who has joint custody and is responsible for the child’s primary residence can temporarily relocate with less than 45 days’ notice if it is required by health, safety, employment, or eviction. A parent with joint custody and equal parenting time under the same circumstances can only temporarily relocate if both parents agree to it in writing.

Child’s Best Interest In Relocation Matters

When ruling on issues in a child custody matter, a family law judge in Arizona is obligated to make decisions in the child’s best interest. The best interest factors for general Arizona custody matters are listed in A.R.S. § 25-403, and can be considered for relocation matters as well. The other factors for a child’s best interest in relocation matters include:

  • Whether the relocation is being made or opposed in good faith, rather than to interfere with the child’s relationship with the other parent;
  • If the move will potentially improve the child’s quality of life;
  • The likelihood that the parent seeking a relocation will comply with custody orders after the relocation;
  • Whether the relocation allows a realistic opportunity for parenting time with each parent;
  • If moving or not moving will affect the child’s emotional, physical, and developmental needs;
  • The motives and validity behind the reasons for the move or opposing the move, including if either parent is trying to gain a financial advantage for child support obligations; and
  • The potential effect on the child’s stability. 

Relocation Hearings

Whether you’re the parent seeking to move or the parent opposing the move, a relocation hearing is an important event that will greatly impact your family life. You should thoroughly prepare for a relocation hearing and consider retaining a family law attorney to represent you in the matter. In these types of hearings, the burden of proof is on the parent seeking to relocate. The burden will be on that parent to prove that moving will not negatively affect a child’s best interest. The judge will consider the issue using factors prescribed by A.R.S. §§ 25-403 and 25-408. It is crucial that your arguments are clear and convincing when litigating relocation in a child custody matter. It is difficult to overturn family law orders once the judge has made a ruling. The odds will be against you if your child’s other parent has retained a family law attorney for the matter. Our Phoenix family law team has the knowledge and experience that will help yield you positive results out of a negative situation. Your situation is uniquely personal and our dedicated lawyers will work persistently to work towards a solution that fits you and your family’s needs. 

Jurisdiction In Relocation Matters

In any type of legal matter, it’s always important to make sure legal filings are made in the correct venue. A court must have jurisdiction over a matter for the orders it issues to be legally binding. For child custody matters, a child must reside in Arizona for at least 6 months before jurisdiction is transferred to Arizona. To maintain jurisdiction in Arizona despite the child leaving the state, at least one of the following two factors must be met: 

  1. Arizona was the child’s state of residence within 6 months prior to the most recently filed legal action.
  2. At least one of the child’s parents still lives in Arizona. 

Prepare For Your Relocation Matter With Maricopa County’s Top Choice For Family Law Representation

Do you have more questions about the relocation process in a child custody matter in Maricopa County? Our lawyers offer free consultations to discuss your situation in detail and begin planning your legal strategy. Same-day phone consultations are available. Schedule your free consultation today by calling 480-680-9126. Contact us at Az Family Law Lawyers today!

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