Calculating Distance for Child Relocation in Arizona
One of the issues in an Arizona child relocation case may be calculating the distance a parent intends to relocate with a child. The Arizona Court of Appeals in the case of Thompson vs. Thompson answered the question of how a court should calculate the distance when a parent requests to relocate a child in an Arizona child custody case.
In the Thompson case, Mother’s request to move to Show Low with the parties’ child was granted at a temporary order hearing. The court also granted her custody of the parties children with visitation awarded to Father. After those orders were entered, the mother moved from Alpine to Show Low.
In May 2005, the court entered a divorce decree awarding sole legal custody of the children to Mother and liberal visitation to the father.
Over a year later, Mother notified the court of her intention to move again from Show Low to Payson, Arizona in order to start a full-time position. The approximate distance of the move from Show Low to Payson, Arizona was 90 miles.
Objection to a Request to Relocate a Child in Arizona
Father objected to the move, arguing that the move exceeded the distance limitations contained in A.R.S. 25-408 because Payson was approximately 138 miles from Eagar (Father’s place of residence). He petitioned the court to prevent the relocation of the children.
The court denied Father’s request as the distance of the move from Show Low to Payson is 90 miles, less than the 100-mile limitation per Arizona Statute. Father moved for a new trial presenting two arguments:
- That the distance of Mother’s currently proposed move from Show Low to Payson should be added to the distance of her previous move (granted by temporary orders prior to the final divorce decree) from Eagar to Show Low; and
- That the distance of the move should be calculated from his residence in Eagar to the proposed relocation to Payson – not from Mother’s current location to her proposed new location.
The trial court denied the motion, finding that the first move was separate and distinct from the second and that the starting point to measure the distance of the move would be from Show Low as that is the location where the children were residing. Interpreting A.R.S. 25-408 as pertaining to relocating, Father presents the same arguments.
The Arizona Court of Appeals looked to the meaning of the statute through the interpretation of its plain language. As such, A.R.S. 25-408(B) is not triggered by a written agreement or court order is in place regarding custody/parenting time between the two parties.
Yet subsection B becomes inapplicable if provisions have been made for relocation of a child through a court order that is dated within one year of the relocation of the child (as per A.R.S. 25-408(E). Subsection E makes Subsection B inapplicable in regards to this particular argument from Father.
When Subsection E exempts a move from Subsection B, the miles of the exempted move is not included within the 100 mile limitation presented in Subsection B. Father’s also raised questions of interpretation when he argued that the distance of the move should be measured from his own residence in Eagar rather than from the Mother’s residence in Show Low.
The distance of the Proposed Relocation of a Child in Arizona
Section 25-408(B) does not designate a starting point for measuring the distance of the move when relocating the children. As the statute is silent regarding this issue, The Arizona Court of Appeals considered the intended purpose and spirit of the legislation as well as the effects and consequences.
It is understood that the intention of the legislation is, in cases where joint custody/parenting is granted, that one parent cannot frustrate the parenting time/custody of the other parent by relocating with the children.
At the same time, the legislation is intended to give parents (granted joint custody/parenting time) with flexibility regarding where they live. It is an attempt to balance the competing interests that exist in this situation.
As such, The Arizona Court of Appeals decided that the distance of the move should be measured from Show Low, Mother’s current residence, and the residence of both Mother and children at the time that the decree was entered by the court.
The distance from Show Low to Payson is approximately 90 miles – within range of the 100-mile limitation imposed by the statute for the relocation of a child in the state of Arizona. The Arizona Court of Appeals affirms the Superior Court’s determination that Section 25-408(B) is inapplicable in the case of Mother’s move from Show Low to Payson in the case of Thompson v. Thompson.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article to ensure everyone has access to information about family law in Arizona. Chris is a divorce and family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a divorce should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and, quite frankly, actually caring about what his clients are going through in a divorce or family law case. In short, his practice is defined by the success of his clients. He also manages all of the other attorneys at his firm to make sure the outcomes in their clients’ cases are successful as well.