SB 1038, sponsored by Senator Nancy Barto, proposes limits on the custodial parent’s right to move outside Arizona. Under current law, the custodial parent may move up to 100 miles outside the state if it is in the best interest of the parent. The new legislation alters the rules, decreeing that there must be a court hearing within 45 days after the custodial parent informs the non-custodial parent of the planned move. All moves would require a hearing, and the standard is the best interest of the child; not the custodial parent.
Should Custodial Parents be Worried?
At this point in time, the bill has not passed the House and Senate, and is not yet law. All the same, both custodial and non-custodial parents ought to be aware that changes may be coming. In the best case scenario, the custodial parent has a stable job within a reasonable distance from the other parent, and regular visitation is not a problem. It only becomes a problem if and when:
§ SB 1038 is passed and signed into law; and
§ Custodial parent finds another job, and wishes to move to another location.
The proposed legislative intent is to protect the rights of a non-custodial parent, as well as the best interests of the children. One potential problem is the effect it could have on the custodial parent’s earning power, and career. Since any move will require a court hearing, the custodial parent is going to miss a day at work, even if they are just moving to the far side of town—or thirty minutes outside of town. Supervisors may not take kindly to absences.
And the custodial parent may find themselves turning down a promotion if it requires moving to another branch office, which means moving to another neighborhood or city. Some custodial parents had abused the current law by being able to move say, 75 miles from the other parent one year, and another 75 the following year. They could do so, as long as the move was under 100 miles.
But, it seems rather awkward to require each and every move to be examined by a family law judge. Suppose the custodial parent works in a bank, and has to be transferred to another location within the state. Is it really needful to hold a hearing in order to preserve everybody’s rights?
There is also a real possibility that the non-custodial parent might use the new system to frustrate the custodial parent. Divorces generate a tremendous amount of hostility, and some people will use every trick in the book to challenge their ex-spouse, including ‘the move isn’t good for the children”.
So, the best strategy is to be prepared. If the custodial parent knows that they may be transferred in the future, they should first talk to their lawyer, and get any and all evidence showing the move will benefit the children. Should they be at the point of filing a petition to dissolve a marriage, even if custody agreements have been made, they may change if SB 1038 passes. Ask your lawyer about this bill, and its’ possible consequences.