Can I Move Out of State with My Kids After a Divorce?

It is common for one parent to move to a new city or state after a divorce. There may be a new job, a new spouse, or a chance to start over. Regardless of the reason, a parent’s move will affect custody in a significant way. There are lots of circumstances that can affect relocation custody decisions, and you need to be aware of them in advance. Contacting a family law attorney in Prescott, AZ, is a great first step.

Custodial parents who plan to move out of state with their children must first obtain the court’s permission or the other parent’s permission before moving. Court jurisdiction continues over the child until the child turns 18 (or becomes emancipated).

In all Arizona custody matters, the family court judge is guided by what is in the child’s best interest. If a parent decides to move away, the remaining parent must be given 45 days’ notice before the child may be relocated out-of-state or more than 100 miles within the state. A court must review the impact of the relocation on the child if the remaining parent objects to the move. Allow a family law attorney to guide you to ensure the best outcome.

Relocating a Child in Arizona and Moving Out of State
The Arizona child relocation statute is A.R.S. 25-408 and applies if both parents have custody rights or parenting time and both parents live in the state. A judge will consider the following factors when determining the impact of relocation on a child:

• An explanation for why a custodial parent chose to relocate.
• What impact will the move have on the noncustodial parent’s visitation rights?
• Whether the move is motivated by keeping the child away from the noncustodial parent.
• There is no indication as to whether the move was motivated by bad faith or by a desire to win a child support case.
• How such a move will affect the child’s mental and physical well-being.

A move-away impacts the non-custodial parent’s access rights. Both parents can work together to come up with a modified parenting time agreement that protects each parent’s relationship with the child while meeting the primary objectives of each. It is usually possible to resolve the issue by visiting longer but less frequently. Your divorce attorney can help you achieve the results you want so that both parents can be a part of the child’s life.

Due to the noncustodial parent’s increased distance from the child, adjustments may need to be made to child support, travel and lodging costs, and other expenses. The court will determine the terms if there is no agreement. With the child’s best interests at the forefront, the judge’s order includes modifications to parenting time that protect both parties.

If I have sole custody, can I move out of state without asking the court?
No. Parenting time is separate from legal decision-making. Leaving the state requires notifying the other parent of their intent to relocate, and the non-custodial parent can then file a court objection.

When moving out of state, what rights do custodial parents have?
If you intend to relocate, you’ll need to give the other parent a 45-day advance written notice, and the other parent will have 30 days to file an objection.

If a custodial parent wishes to move out of state, what are the non-custodial parent’s rights?
After the custodial parent notifies you of their intent to move, you can object through the courts, which initiates a custody case. According to family law in Prescott, AZ, a court will then decide whether the child can move. The judge will consider what is best for the child in these cases. In some cases, it may not be the child’s choice at all but what the magistrate or judge can determine from all known facts and factors.

The Child’s Best Interest is Paramount
Any custody decision must consider a child’s best interests. When courts decide what type of custody and visitation arrangement is best for a child, they consider several factors. Among them are:

• The physical and mental health of each parent.
• The relationship between each parent and their child.
• The stability provided by parents.
• Family violence and child abuse histories of each parent, if any, and
• Adaptation of the child to the home and community.

After taking into account these factors and anything else relevant to the child’s well-being, a judge may award joint or sole physical custody and joint or sole legal custody. Even when one parent has sole physical custody, parents can share legal custody. When it comes to relocating with the child, however, the parent who has sole physical custody (called the “custodial parent”) may have an advantage. Be sure to protect yourself by hiring an experienced divorce attorney.

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
In the United States, most interstate custody disputes are governed by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The law was not enacted by the federal government but by a “uniform state law,” which has been adopted by many jurisdictions. Currently, 49 states, Washington, D.C., Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands operate under the UCCJEA.

By with the UCCJEA, whichever court makes the first child custody order has exclusive and continuing jurisdiction over custody matters for minor children referred to that order. This court operates in whichever state the child resides by default.

Two conditions must be met to maintain this legal status as a home state:
1. Before the most recent legal action was filed, it was the child’s physical home state.
2. One parent of the child lives in the home state.

If no state meets those criteria to be the child’s home state, another state can be established as the child’s home state and will then have jurisdiction over any future custody proceedings. A child and at least one of their parents must demonstrate a “significant connection” to the new home state for this to happen. There are many factors to consider when proving such a connection in court and deciding which state should have jurisdiction over a custody case:

• Physical presence of the child in that state; does the child already live there? How long have they lived there?
• Does the custodial parent have a job in that state that provides basic resources?
• Support systems such as extended family are present.
• The child’s or parents’ history in the state.
• If domestic violence or other risk factors are present in the case.
• The state with the best resources to meet the needs of the child and their custodial parent.
• Distance between the two states.
• Parents’ financial circumstances and their ability to provide a stable environment for their children.
• A court’s familiarity with the family or case.
• Each parent’s ability to provide physical and mental care to their child.
• Relationship between the child and each parent.
• New surroundings and the child’s ability to adapt.

A valid court order about custody and the establishment of a home court cannot be overstated. You may be subject to serious legal liability if you move out of state with your child without a custody agreement. A notice of intent to relocate is required whether you’re moving to Arizona or leaving for another state. There is a high priority placed on the welfare of minor children by Arizona courts.

The UCCJEA and Modifying Custody Orders
Divorced parents can request a modification to a custody order under the UCCJEA’s powerful legal mechanisms. Whenever they or the other parent plan to relocate with their minor child, modifications may be necessary.

Unless either of two circumstances occur, the original custody order will stand, and custody will remain under the original home court’s jurisdiction:
1. Both parents and the child have relocated out of state (not necessarily to the same one).
2. Courts decide to drop their jurisdiction over custody cases when another state has more contact with the child and the child’s parent(s).

A court order will be issued if such a determination is made and the original home court has decided to relinquish jurisdiction over custody matters. Before the new home state can issue their updated custody order, this order must be issued.

A parent can petition the court to determine whether the original home court should give up its jurisdiction. Divorced parents or their divorce lawyers in Prescott, AZ, may petition the original home court to give up its jurisdiction because their former state no longer has a substantial connection to the child and their parent(s). If sufficient evidence exists to support this assertion, the court will grant the request and relinquish jurisdiction over the minor child(ren).

Emergency Orders Under the UCCJEA
There is a great deal of fact-gathering and testimony involved in the process of having the original home court give up its jurisdiction. It is the court’s responsibility to ensure that the minor child’s interests are protected.

An emergency order can expedite the process of getting legal permission to relocate out of state with your minor child in some cases. For example, a child who suffers abuse from a parent would be at risk of harm. To keep children and parents safe, the UCCJEA allows for these emergency orders. If an emergency order is granted, the local court in the new jurisdiction must also be notified.

Emergency orders of this type are rare. Despite their approval, they do not replace the regular process of transferring jurisdiction from one state to another. Under the UCCJEA, emergency orders are only issued temporarily to protect vulnerable minor children and their parents during the legal process of setting up a new home state. To modify or revoke the original order, the custodial parent must return to the original home court.

Getting Legal Assistance from a Family Law Firm
If you are considering relocating to Arizona, here is crucial information: you may not be approved unless you can prove that your plan is in your child’s best interests. It is important to remember, however, that no two family situations are the same. Therefore, it is important to consult a family law attorney who understands this and can explain how the law may affect you and your family.

Whether you are a custodial parent or a noncustodial parent, relocating with children after divorce is a complex custody matter. Chances are that you and your ex-spouse will need to work out some details before agreeing on new stipulations. It is common for disagreements to occur in these situations. Regardless of how simple or contentious the conversation may be, it is essential to have an experienced divorce lawyer in Prescott, AZ present to represent your interests.

We have helped hundreds of clients successfully navigate custody disputes at Willison Law, PC. We welcome your call if you are considering moving or looking for advice. For more information, click to call or fill out our online contact form. We’ll respond quickly and discreetly.

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