Child custody and a parent’s wish to relocate, looking at the best interests of the child

It's difficult enough for children to adjust to life after their parents divorce. After the separation, children now have two households they live in or visit. In ideal circumstances, parents live close by each other so their children don't have to travel far to visit each of them.

In some cases, however, it becomes difficult for children when one parent wishes to relocate far away from the other parent. Family law courts recognize the potential detriment this has on children. Therefore, strict rules must be followed by parents with child custody arrangements wishing to relocate.

The state of Arizona, in particular, has passed strict guidelines for parents requesting relocation.

60 day notice for relocation request

If both parents reside in the state of Arizona, and one parent wishes to either "relocate the child outside the state, or relocate the child more than one hundred miles within the state," a 60 day written notice (as provided under the statute's definition) must be provided to the other parent.

The law stipulates that a parent will face sanctions if he or she, "without good cause does not comply with the notification requirements" of the law.

Serving the notice

The notice cannot simply be mailed or even emailed to the opposing party. The notice must be sent by certified mail return receipt requested or actually served by process server on the opposing party.

Petitioning the court to prevent relocation

If one parent objects to the relocation, the state of Arizona allows the other parent to petition the court to prevent the relocation. However, this must be done within 30 days of receiving the notice to relocate.

Determining relocation grant: best interests of the child

Similar to many other jurisdictions, Arizona family law courts base their family law decisions, including child custody determinations, on what's known as the "best interests of the child." Whatever is in the best interest of the child will determine the appropriate course of action. Judges look at several relevant factors in determining the best interests of the child including but not limited to whether:

  • The relocation arrangement is being requested in order to "frustrate the relationship between the child and the other parent or the other parent's right of access to the child."
  • There is an advantage to the relocation for either the child or the custodial parent.
  • The relocation is likely to cause a parent to comply with parenting orders.
  • The child's emotional, physical or developmental needs will be affected.
  • The potential effect of relocation on the child's stability.

When determining relocation, the court will examine these factors. In Arizona, however, the parent seeking relocation has the burden to prove that the relocation is in fact in the best interest of the child.

In some situations, the relocation is beneficial to the child. It may provide access to better schools or way of life. In other situations, it may hinder the relationship with the other parent, particularly if the move is far away.

In today's global economy, relocation petitions are becoming commonplace. Nonetheless, judges will continue to put the best interests of the child first in making relocation determinations.