Divorce is a major life event that results in a myriad of changes. A former spouse might get a new job, meet someone new, or simply want to leave Arizona to start a new life. When minor children are involved, moving out-of-state will drastically affect the current child custody arrangement. Some parents maintain an amicable relationship and work out the details when one wants to relocate. In other cases, parents need to look to the courts to come to a new custody arrangement. Below we provide more information about the factors that can impact your ability to relocate with your kids after divorce.
Relocating with Children After Divorce
If you want to relocate your kids from Phoenix to Scottsdale or from Gilbert to Mesa, you will not need to update your child custody arrangement. Arizona law considers relocation as a move that is at least 100 miles away or out-of-state. The parent who wishes to move has the legal duty to notify the other parent of their intentions via certified mail 45 days in advance of their move. The other parent then has the time to petition the court to prevent the move from occurring. Ultimately, the court will decide whether you can relocate with your kids.
If your former spouse petitions the court to stop you from moving, you will have to attend a hearing. Both of you will have an opportunity to present your case by providing testimony from family, friends, and others. Once the court has all the facts, the judge can make an informed decision about relocation.
Factors that Impact a Court’s Decision Concerning Relocation
Arizona courts do not make child custody decisions lightly, especially those involving moving with children. A judge will examine multiple factors, placing the best interest of the child as the top priority. They include:
Courts favor some motivations for relocation more than others. A parent who wants to move to get a new job, especially one that offers more pay and more opportunities often has a better chance of relocating than a parent who simply wants to move to get a fresh start.
Child’s Quality of Life
The court will examine if relocation will lead to an improved quality of life for the child. What does improved mean? It varies from case to case, but some examples include:
- Access to better schools
- Access to more family
- Access to better childcare
- Ability to live in a more financially secure household
Judges closely evaluate a child’s relationship with each parent. Parents who don’t spend time with their children after divorce, regularly miss or give up their visitation time, or have unhealthy abusive relationships with their children will have a challenging time preventing relocation and likely cannot move with their child if they have full physical custody.
Moving kids away from one or more siblings or half-siblings can be a traumatic life event. Judges carefully weigh relationships kids have with their siblings before modifying a custody arrangement that allows a parent to relocate with their kids. Additionally, the judge will look at how well the siblings who might be moving together get along. Will relocating place an older child in a caretaker role, perhaps impacting the one child in a negative way?
Impact of Less Visitation
One of the consequences of relocating with kids is that the other parent will have less visitation. If the relationship is strained, this may not impact the court’s decision. Yet, kids who spend regular or equal time with the other parent have some type of bond, potentially a strong one. The judge will carefully evaluate the potential emotional consequences a child can suffer as a result of not getting as much time with the non-moving parent.
Child’s Adjustment Period
Moving to a new home and a new community comes with an adjustment period for everyone involved. The adjustment period that a child goes through factors into a judge’s decision about relocation. Many children easily adapt to new situations, but not all do. The judge will consider how well and how quickly your child(ren) will adapt to their new life.
Once a child reaches a certain mix of age and maturity, their preference holds weight with the court. Children, even older ones, don’t always make choices in their best interest, so your child’s preference does not mean the judge will approve or deny relocation. Yet, the judge will carefully listen to your child’s preference and their reasons why and consider it with other factors, especially his or her best interest.
Listed above are the most common factors Arizona courts review when making decisions about relocation. Yet, these are not always the only factors. Each child custody case involving relocation is different. Relationships and underlying facts are different. The court might wish to examine other things that apply to a specific case. For example, a parent who wishes to relocate who has a criminal history or a history plagued with drug and/or alcohol use might find it difficult to move with kids. A history of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and instability can also prevent a judge from modifying a custody arrangement.
Once the court has examined all factors related to you relocating with your kids, he or she will make a ruling about whether you can move or not. If the judge decides you can relocate with your kids, your child support order will be adjusted accordingly.
Relocating with Kids? Contact Us Today to Learn About Your Rights
Co-parenting and dealing child custody matters after a divorce can be overwhelming and stressful for parents and children alike. If you are seeking to relocate out-of-state with your kids, or your former spouse wishes to relocate with your child, contact us today online or at 602-252-1968 to learn more about your rights and the process of modifying a child custody order. The experienced family law attorneys at DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC can help.