Chandler relocation attorney
Helping people throughout the Phoenix Valley, including Tempe and Scottsdale, with relocation and other family law issues
Many divorced or legally separated parents with joint child custody eventually want to move to take advantage of a new job opportunity, different lifestyle, location closer to family and friends, or other circumstances. Relocation can be complicated when minors are involved, and one parent may or may not get the blessing of the other parent, the court, or both. So if you have joint custody and are thinking of moving a long distance, be sure to consult right away with an experienced Chandler relocation attorney.
Where to start if you are considering relocation
First, think before you act. When deciding whether to move to another county, state, or country with your children, be sure to think about how relocation might affect them. Also realize that you could lose primary custody altogether. Experts agree that the best situation for youngsters is having mom and dad living as close together geographically as possible. This enables the children to have what Arizona courts call “frequent and continuing contact” with both parents.
Living next door to each other is not always practical or desirable. On the other hand, living a long distance apart makes co-parenting harder and inevitably decreases the frequency of contact. Even if the court were to allow a move, longer but less-frequent visits with each parent would soon become the norm, such as spending the school year with mom and school breaks with dad. It’s not the ideal living situation, but it is doable.
How to determine whether relocation is even possible
If you are considering relocation, one of the first questions you should ask yourself is whether you have truly thought through all possible implications and logistical complications of the proposed move. Where exactly would you live? Where would you work? Where would the children attend school? What kinds of academic and extracurricular activities would be available for the kids? What if you have a child with special needs, abilities, or interests? What if they already know what they want to be when they grow up and must take certain classes or take advantage of volunteer opportunities in a certain field? Who will watch them if you have to work or have an emergency?
Perhaps the most important consideration is how you plan to ensure that the parent who is left behind still gets “meaningful” time with the kids, as the court requires. Will you travel with the children by plane if they are too young to fly alone? Will you drive them in a car overnight to maximize their quality time with the other parent? Can you regularly afford to take off that much work or pay for the travel expenses? Once you ask these questions, you may begin to realize that custody-sharing and parenting-time exchanges would not be as easy or straightforward after a move as they were before.
What to do if you are set on moving
Keep in mind that Arizona law requires that you give the other parent at least 60 days’ written notice of your relocation plans, preferably dated and with your signature notarized. Such notice is required even if the move is in-state but over 100 miles away from where you live now. This may change soon to out-of-state only, but for now you must abide by the current legal requirement.
If the other parent objects within 30 days of receiving notice, he or she has the right to ask the family court for a hearing to address the proposed move. After the 30-day period has elapsed, the other parent can get a hearing only by showing good cause. This means he or she must convince the judge that there was a valid reason for the delay in requesting the hearing.
What to do if you don’t have 60 days
Even if you have less than 60 days before having to move, and even if there is not enough time to get a court hearing, it is best to provide written notice anyway. This puts you in the best possible position to prove that you gave notice to the other parent of your plans. Still, it’s like asking for forgiveness rather than getting permission.
You may be allowed to move without a court’s blessing, at least temporarily, if it is considered an emergency or unavoidable situation. If the custody is 50/50, a temporary move may be possible if both parents sign a written agreement.
Whether you will be allowed to relocate
The success of your relocation request depends on how the hearing goes and how much time you have. But don’t expect the court’s go-ahead simply because you have a once-in-a-lifetime job offer or relatives promising to give you and the kids a place to stay. Even in today’s highly mobile world, the court may prevent you from moving at all—at least at this time.
Nevertheless, pay close attention to what the judge says because if you tweak your plans to enhance parenting time for the other parent or at least minimize the disruption, trauma, and negative effects of the proposed move, you may be allowed to relocate in the future. Also, a judge is more likely to let you move if you wait at least one year after a divorce or child-custody establishment is ordered.