Relocating Children After Divorce in Arizona
Some parents may be interested in relocating children after divorce in Arizona. We wanted to provide those people with helpful information regarding Arizona laws that apply to a parent attempting to relocate a child after a divorce in Arizona
Parenting plans and visitation schedules designed for divorced parents to remain actively involved in their children’s lives can create challenges even under the best of circumstances.
When the primary residential or custodial parent wants or needs to relocate, the challenges can significantly increase. A nearby move is generally not problematic. An out-of-state move can often prove difficult and require court approval prior to relocation.
Arizona Law on Relocation Children After Divorce
The laws on relocation are different in each state, but the standard is similar. Courts will generally require parents to do what is in their children’s best interests. Arizona is no different.
Toward that goal, some states, such as Washington and New Jersey, begin with a presumption that the intended move will be in a child’s best interest.
Other states take an opposite approach placing a burden on the parent who wants to move to show that relocation is the best option. In Arizona, the law requires the parent seeking to move to prove the relocation of the children is in the children’s best interests.
If there is not a court-ordered custody or visitation plan in place, the custodial parent may not be subject to any state law on relocation and can move without obtaining prior approval. However, it is still wise for parents to coordinate any move to ensure visitation continues on a regular basis.
Written Notice of Intent to Relocate Children After an Arizona Divorce
When a current parenting plan or custody order is in place, most states require the custodial parent to provide written notice to the other parent within a set number of days prior to a move. For example, in Arizona, if the planned move is out of state or more than 100 miles from the moving parent’s current home, the moving parent must provide 45 days advance written notice.
That notice must be served on the other parent either by certified mail with return receipt requested, by the other parent signing a written acceptance of service of the notice, or the other parent being served with the written notice by a process server.
The non-custodial parent can file a written objection within 30 days. Arizona law requires the parent who is requesting the relocation of the children to prove that the relocation is in the children’s best interests.
Arizona law does permit the relocation of a child if both parents agree to the relocation. It is always best practice to get such agreements in writing.
In some cases, relocation of children less than 100 miles, although not requiring permission from the other parent or the court, might be far enough away to make any current court-ordered visitation schedule impractical.
If the non-custodial parent won’t agree, the moving parent must provide notice to the other parent of the intent to relocate. That notice permits the other parent to object to the relocation.
Court Trial on Best Interests of the Children
When advanced notice is required before moving and the other parent objects, a court hearing will usually be scheduled. Courts must balance the potential benefits of a planned move against the disruption to a non-custodial parent’s visitation rights.
The custodial parent should be adequately prepared to explain the reason for the move, why the move is in the best interest of the child and how contact and visitation will be maintained with the other parent.
Judges will examine a variety of factors to determine if a planned move is in a child’s best interest. These factors include whether the child will receive comparable education and social opportunities, the reason for relocation, the relationship between each parent and the child, the age and needs of the child, any alternatives to relocation and the financial impact of relocating. An older child’s choice of which parent to live with may also be considered.
Reasons a Parent May Want to Relocate Children to Another State
In today’s busy society there can be many legitimate, “good faith” reasons for relocating. A custodial parent may be required to move for job purposes or because a new spouse must take a job elsewhere.
Relocation may be necessary to obtain a more affordable cost of living, to be closer to relatives who can help support the family or for the parent to obtain education or specialized training.
Military service members are frequently required to relocate. Courts will tend to look favorably on these justifications for a move.
What courts will not tolerate is when a move appears to be planned in bad faith. These moves are ones intended to punish the other parent or to reduce the contact between the non-custodial parent and the child without substantial justification.
Likewise, if a parent objects to a planned move, the objection should be made in good faith. If the non-custodial parent has a spotty history of contact or involvement with the children, a court may view any objection with skepticism.
Propose a New Parenting Plan if Children Relocate
The relocating parent should propose a new visitation schedule that will allow significant contact with the non-custodial parent. The standard plan which often gives a non-custodial parent visitation every other weekend plus an occasional mid-week visit will be impractical when parents live a substantial distance from each other.
A fair plan may likely provide that the child will reside with the non-custodial parent for a majority of the longer school breaks including summer vacation.
A long-distance parenting plan should also include provisions regarding travel between residences. Guidelines should designate the method of travel to be used, the person who will be responsible for arranging travel and how travel costs will be paid by the parents.
Technological advances should be incorporated into a revised visitation schedule. Specific time may be designated for a parent and child to visit via a webcam and internet video link.
This allows each party to see and hear the other. Video visitation can allow the non-custodial parent to help a child with homework, read the child a story or watch the child participate in activities. Virtual visitation cannot replace in-person contact, but it can provide a valuable supplement to strengthen long-distance relationships.
Because laws on parental relocation differ by state, any custodial parent planning to move with the children should consult an experienced family law attorney. Failure to follow relevant law can result in a court denying permission to move or, in a worst-case scenario, requiring a custodial parent to return to the original location of residence after a move. Proper planning can make a move smoother for everyone involved.
Contact Our Scottsdale Arizona Divorce Attorneys
Call us today at (480)305-8300 to schedule your personalized consultation with one of our experienced Arizona child custody attorneys at our award-winning law firm located in Scottsdale, Arizona to get answers to your questions about divorce laws in Arizona.
U.S. News and World Report “Best Divorce Law Firm | 2020”, “Best of the Valley” by Arizona Foothills Magazine, “Top Family Law Attorney” by North Valley Magazine, “AV Rated Divorce Attorney” by Martindale-Hubbell” and many more.
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Chris Hildebrand wrote the information on this page about relocating children after divorce in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about child relocation laws in Arizona. Chris is a 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 child custody case should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and actually caring about what his clients are going through.