It can be very difficult for a parent to relocate or move from Arizona with their minor children. If there is already a court order which grants the parents joint legal decision-making (custody) or parenting time (visitation), at least forty-five (45) days’ advance written notice is required before a parent may relocate the children out of state or more than one-hundred (100) miles within the state. The written notice must be made to the other parent by certified mail, return receipt requested. The notice should include the expected date of the move, the address of the relocation and any other important details such as a proposed parenting schedule and cost of travel. If the non-moving parent disagrees with the relocation, that parent has thirty (30) days to file a petition with the court to prevent the relocation. The court must then schedule a hearing to allow the parties to present their case and ultimately make a determination as to whether a relocation of the children can happen.
The parent who wants to move with the children has the burden to prove that a relocation of the children is in their best interests.
In other words, if all factors are equal, a parent may not move the children. There are numerous factors that the court will consider when making this decision. Those factors include, but are not limited to, the advantage of the move on the quality of life of the parent and the children, whether the relocation will allow a realistic opportunity for parenting time (visitation) with each parent, the extent to which the move will affect the emotional, physical or developmental needs of the children, the effect of the relocation on the children’s stability, and the historical relationship between each parent and the children .
If a relocation is allowed, the court will establish a long-distance parenting schedule which will generally involve the children traveling from one parent to the other during school breaks. The court will also make a ruling on which parent is responsible for the costs of travel.
A parent may also request relocation of the children during a divorce or paternity matter. When such a case begins, there is already a court order (called a Preliminary Injunction) which prohibits the children from leaving the state without written permission of the other parent or court order. As a result, the forty-five day written notice of the move is not required. A decision on whether a move with the children can happen will take place in the final trial. The same factors are considered by the court and the burden remains on the parent wanting to move to show the children’s best interests are served by a relocation.
If the child has grown up with both parents involved in their upbringing, the court prefers to keep both parents in relatively close contact with the child. If a parent wishes to move more than 100 miles from their present location with the child, the parent needs the written agreement of the other parent or a court order and must give at least 60 days written notice to the other parent by certified mail. Within 30 days after receiving the written notice, the non-moving parent may ask for a court hearing to prevent the move. Ultimately, the court is guided by the best interests of the child in deciding whether to allow relocation to occur.
The court considers a wide array of factors in evaluating whether the child moving out of state is appropriate, with the best interests of the child as the primary factor. The court will look at, among other issues: • what advantages relocation would bring for the parent and child; whether the relocation is being made in good faith, and not for purpose of frustrating the other parent’s relationship with the child; and the ability of the other parent to continue to exercise parenting time with the child and comply with any parenting or support orders.