Understanding child custody and relocation

If you and your ex-spouse share joint custody of your child, but one of you needs to relocate, there are certain steps that the moving parent must make. Without following the law, the court may make a different custody order that gives sole custody to the nonmoving parent.

When considering whether to continue to allow for joint custody after relocation, the judge considers a number of factors, and the biggest ones relate to what is best for the child.

Relocation basics

According to the Arizona State Legislature, the parent who plans on moving at least 100 miles away or to a different state must send a written notice by certified mail to the other parent at least 45 days before the planned relocation date. If the other parent opposes this relocation, he or she must petition the court within 30 days of receiving the notice to prevent the move or argue for a different custody decision.

If both parties agree to the relocation, they can sign a written agreement. The current custody order shall remain in effect unless the court orders differently or the parents agree to an alternative parenting plan.

Best interest factors

If the nonmoving parent wants to prevent the relocation of the child, the courts take into account what is in the best interest for the child. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, the judge considers each of the parent’s ability to care for the child as well as the academic and emotional needs of the child. When it comes to relocation, the judge considers how the move will affect the child, what access the child will have to the other parent, the child’s social connections in the current living environment and the child’s current relationships with other relatives.