Parents often wonder if they are allowed to leave the state when they have a minor child and a family law matter. This happens while parents are still married, during the pending divorce, and after the divorce. Can I move out of state with my child? There are requirements that pertain to each of these situations, so make sure you understand what your obligations are before you attempt to relocate. Lets look at all three situations.

Can I move out of state with my child?

  1. Parents are still married and neither has filed for a divorce:

At this point both parents have equal rights. Neither parent is superior. This means either parent has the right to take the minor child or children wherever they choose. There is no requirement to inform the other parent of his or her intent to leave the state with the children.

If you are the parent who remains in the state and wants your children to be returned, then you will need to file for temporary orders once you begin the divorce proceeding. The court will look at the Arizona Relocation Statute, and examine the factors to determine what is in the child’s best interest. Courts have been known to sway in both directions but tend to disapprove of relocation that will take the child away from one parent. Sometimes a parent will be allowed to stay out of state with the children, but in many other situations they will be required to return.

  1. The parents are in the middle of a divorce:

Once a parent has filed for divorce, a preliminary injunction goes into effect. The preliminary injunction sets out a number of requirements that a parent must comply by until the divorce is finalized. One of the provisions of the preliminary injunction prevents either parent from taking the child out of the state. If you do so, you may be held in contempt of court. The courts have implemented this requirement to prevent parents from running off with the child.

However, there are exceptions to this requirement. If both parents agree that one of the parents can travel out of state with the child for a vacation or something similar, then it is perfectly acceptable. A parent just needs to ensure they never do so without a written agreement from the other parent.

Also, keep in mind that this preliminary injunction does not prevent a parent from requesting a permanent parenting plan that relocates the child out of state. Any parent may make the argument that they should be able to relocate out of state with the child. Once again, that parent will need to look at the Arizona Relocation Statute and examine all of the factors in their argument.

  1. After the parents have divorced or a parenting plan has been ordered:

After the parents divorce or there is a final order for a parenting plan in place, there are specific steps that a parent must take before they can relocate with a minor child out of state.   If these steps are not taken, there may be repercussions for the parent who relocated with the child. These requirements are set out in A.R.S. § 25-408, which require a parent to provide at least sixty days’ advance notice to the other parent by certified mail.

If the other parent opposes the relocation, he or she may file a Petition to Prevent relocation after receiving the sixty days’ notice. Once this occurs, the parent who wishes to relocate should file a response. The court will then again look at the Arizona Relocation Statute to determine what is in the best interests of the minor child.

Keep in mind that depending on your situation there will be certain procedures and requirements implemented before you can relocate with your minor child. This is a very tricky and personal situation and one where it is almost always best if you consult an attorney. For more information on relocation, give us a call.