Arizona Child Custody: Moving Out of State

It’s not uncommon for one parent to move to another city or state after a divorce, often due to a new job, new educational opportunities for the children, or a fresh start on life. If both parties disagree over the handling of custody after the relocation, then the court will decide what they must do. Laws concerning child custody in Arizona will at all times be implemented by the judge to ensure the best interest the child.

Physical and legal custody defined

If you are pressed with child custody issues, there is a difference between physical and legal custody that you need to know.

Physical custody refers to the actual place where the child lives and the person the child lives with most of the time. Joint physical custody is granted by the judge except when one of the parents is seen as unfit. Time is divided among the parents in a way best suited for the child.

Legal custody gives the parent the authority to make decisions regarding the child’s welfare, such as medical care, education, and spiritual growth. Like physical custody, joint legal custody grants both parents the right to make important decisions for their child. Sole legal custody, as the term implies, grants authority to only one parent.

Parents can enjoy joint legal custody even if one parent is awarded has sole physical custody of the child. Still, the parent who has sole physical custody (also known as the custodial parent) may have a better advantage should they want to move away with the child.

Moving out of Arizona with a child with a no custody agreement

A custody agreement is only as good as the parents that are prepared to follow it. One good thing about turning it into a court order is that the parties involved will be forced to comply with it.

In a no custody order, both parents enjoy equal rights to custody and either of them can have legal physical possession of the child whenever they like. It’s another thing, however, when one parent takes the child away without the consent of the other parent. This action is not considered reasonable and could have serious legal consequences, perhaps a child kidnapping charge.

A parent cannot just decide to move away with the child. The child continues to remain under court jurisdiction until the age of 18.

In Arizona, relocation or moving out of state is often grounds for changing the custody agreement. This request for modification may be made by the relocating party who wants to take the child with them. It can also be made by the party who is disputing the “move-away.”

Disputes often come up when the custodial parent requests permission to move their child out of the state. To determine whether the move is allowable, the court will base its final decision on the child’s best interest. The factors the court will consider include:

  • The reasons for the parent to relocate
  • The reasons the other parent has for opposing the relocation
  • The time period, degree, and quality of the child’s relationship with each parent
  • How the move out of state will affect the child emotionally
  • Whether the move-away can improve the quality of life of both relocating parents and child
  • Whether the relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent can be maintained with a different custody arrangement
  • Up to what extent the relocation can affect the non-custodial parent’s access to the child
  • What the child prefers, if the child is old and mature enough express it

The court will also take into account the possibility of coming up with a new visitation arrangement which will still allow the non-custodial parent substantial parenting time with the child.

Parenting time is a legal term for the amount of time the child is allowed to spend with the non-custodial parent, or the parent who is not awarded sole legal custody.

Both parents may mutually agree about one parent’s relocation and must sign a written agreement to prove it. The agreement will still require the court’s approval.

How far can a parent move with joint custody?

Relocating is not just a matter of moving across town. If both parents are residents of Arizona and share custody, the parent who wants to relocate with the child must give the other parent 60 days’ notice before moving the child more than 100 miles from the other parent or from the state. The notice provides the non-relocating parent ample time to request a court to prevent the move.

If the move is just a short distance and will not impact agreement conditions, then changes to the current child custody and visitation agreement are not needed. If one parent moves beyond 100 miles from their present location, then the custody agreement needs to be modified.

The parent who requests relocation is legally responsible of proving that it is in the best interest of the child. If the non-relocating parent objects to the move with the child, Arizona law requires that “the court shall determine whether to allow the parent to relocate the child in accordance with the child’s best interests.”

In a move-away case, even if the court denies the relocation request, it doesn’t mean that the requesting parent cannot move. It simply means that the parent can move but without bringing the child along.

Don’t hesitate to approach our professional and experienced attorneys at Goldman Law. We can provide you with tailored advice on your parental rights and responsibilities in Arizona.