When parents divorce from one another, the goal of the courts in Arizona is to ensure that the children are protected and that everything is done in their best interests. This means ensuring that both parents can see the children and that both have equal parenting time, or at least as close to equal as possible, especially when it comes to relocation and parenting. They would also have joint decision-making for the children.
Of course, in the real world, things can get more complicated. When a couple divorces, it does not always mean that they are going to be staying in the same city, or even the same state, for the rest of their lives. Sometimes, whether it’s because of work or any other number of reasons, they need to relocate. In these cases, what happens with the custody of the children?
Sometimes, the parents will be capable of coming up with an agreement on how they can handle the custody after the move. This is the best-case scenario, and hopefully, it means that both of the parents will still have plenty of time with the kids. Of course, parents are not always going to agree, especially when it means they may not be able to see their children as often. Relocation and custody have the potential to be quite complicated, as you can imagine.
What Do Courts Consider?
Remember, custody decisions in Arizona are all about doing what the courts feel is best for the kids. That is the driving force behind parenting time, visitation, etc. The courts consider things like the mental health of the parents, the child’s relationship with each parent, the amount of stability each parent can provide, history of abuse and domestic violence if there is any, and the child’s adjustment to the community and home.
In Arizona, if the parents share parenting time and/or legal decision-making for the children, they are required to provide the other parent with a 45-day notice before moving out of the state or a move that is 100 miles or greater away in the state. Then, the parent who is not moving has the right to petition the court to prevent the relocation from happening.
In some cases, the judge might refuse to grant the right of relocation. This doesn’t mean that the parent who wants to move will not be able to relocate. However, it does mean that they can’t take the child with them when they relocate.
How Does the Judge Make Their Decision?
Judges don’t take relocation and parenting situations lightly because they can have such a major effect on the child. They look at the ways that the relocation could negatively impact the child. Both of the parents will submit evidence for their side of the case, and the judge will then hold a hearing to determine whether relocation can be granted and what adjustments to custody will need to be made.
During the hearing, the judge will hear relevant testimony from those involved in the case. This includes not just the parents, but also other relatives, friends, teachers, coaches, etc. that could give the judge more insight.
The judge will want to know why the parent is moving for starters. Is it for work? Is it a move in good faith, or is the parent only trying to make it more difficult for their ex to see the children? Will the child’s quality of life be improved because of the move, or would it be worse? They want to know about the children’s relationships with other siblings and how they could be affected by the move, as well. For example, are there brothers or sisters from a parent’s previous or later relationships they will no longer see as often if they move?
What is the child’s relationship with each of the parents and how would this be affected by the move? In cases where the child is old enough and mature enough, the judge might ask their input on what they would prefer to have happen. It doesn’t mean that they will always do what the child wants, of course, but the judge can use this insight.
These are just some of the things that the court will look at when making a decision. They will look into anything that they feel could factor into discovering what the best option will be for the children. Sometimes, the judge’s decision will not make one—or both—of the parents happy.
The Burden Falls to the Parent Who Wants to Move
If you are the parent that needs to or wants to relocate, understand the burden of proving that the move will be in the best interest of your child. You have to show and indicate how the move will be a great opportunity for the children, not just for your own career or wants. There has to be a balance when it comes to the kids’ best interests, your interests, and still allowing the kids to spend time with the other parent. Here are some rights of each parent in the state of Arizona.
If possible, it tends to be a good idea to try to talk with the other parent about your move well ahead of time, so you can try to work things out on your own. If you can reach an agreement, it will be easier for you to modify the court orders regarding parenting time and legal decision-making if necessary.
Get in Touch with a Family Law Attorney
If you know that you are going to be moving, or want to move, sometime in the future, you should make sure that you consult with a family law attorney. They can help you to get a better understanding of the types of information and evidence you will need to help make your case to the judge. Those who receive notice that their spouse wants to move and take the children with them will also want to talk with an attorney. They can help you highlight reasons that the children should not have to move with your ex.