Child Relocation and Move Aways

If the custodial parent is under a court’s order, and plans to relocate out-of-state with the child, then that parent must first obtain the court’s permission. Furthermore, failure to notify the court of a proposed move, either out-of-state or over 100 miles in-state, could have serious legal ramifications. A parent under a custody order cannot simply decide unilaterally to move away — the child remains under the continuing jurisdiction of the court until age 18 (or emancipated).

As in all custody matters, the family court judge is guided by what is in the best interests of the child. When the primary residential parent decides to move away, the remaining parent is entitled to 60 days notice before the child may be relocated out-of-state or over 100 miles in-state. If the remaining parent objects to the child moving away, then the effect the relocation could have on the child must be reviewed by the court.

As far as child relocation laws are concerned, the controlling Arizona statute is A.R.S. § 25-408 and applies whenever “by written agreement or court order both parents are entitled to custody or parenting time and both parents reside in the state…” In such a relocation case, the judge examines the impact the proposed move will have on the child in light of the following:

  • The circumstances that led the custodial parent to choose relocation.
  • The impact the move will have on the noncustodial parent’s visitation.
  • Whether the move is motivated by a desire to keep the child away from the noncustodial parent.
  • Whether the move was motivated by bad faith or a desire to gain an advantage over child support.
  • The effect such a move will have on the mental and physical well-being of the child.

Clearly, the noncustodial parent’s right to access is directly impacted by a move-away. The parents can work together toward a modified parenting time agreement that would meet the primary objectives of both, while protecting each parent’s relationship with the child. Longer, but less frequent visits will usually provide the solution. Adjustments might be needed to child support, travel and lodging costs, and other expenses resulting from the noncustodial parent’s increased distance from the child. In the absence of an agreement, the court will decide the terms. The judge’s resulting order includes modifications to parenting time in a way that protects both parties, with the child’s best interests foremost in mind.