During a divorce case, or subsequent to a divorce case, one party or the other may need to relocate out of Arizona to another part of the state, to another state, or even to another country. These can be difficult cases.
Reasons for moving include promotional opportunities or employment opportunities, marriage to a new spouse who lives elsewhere or is relocating, a need to be closer to family to take care of family or to have family support. Occasionally the reason for moving is simply to get away from that $#@#$*(^ of an ex –spouse who makes life difficult.
Clearly, these cases are problematic, as the parenting plan in place when both parents live relatively close to one-another usually cannot be applied when one parent moves a significant distance away. Instead of parenting time switching every few days, a new parenting plan may be required that allows for fewer, but longer term parenting time blocks throughout the year and based upon the school recesses.
The Court, in these relocation cases, tries to minimize the impact to the children. When the children have been raised primarily or exclusively by one parent, the children experience less change by remaining with that same parent, even if this requires a change in residence, school, community, church, medical doctors, friends, family, neighbors, etc. On the other hand, when both parents have been equally or substantially equally involved, the Court will most often determine that remaining here in Arizona in the same residence, the same school, the same community, the same church, the same medical doctors, the same friends, the same extended family, the same neighbors, the same extracurricular activities, etc., provides more stability, even if the parent that has relocated will now have less parenting time.
Like it or not, there remains a small gender bias with many judges, though recent changes in the law continue to try and remove that gender bias. All things being equal, many judges are more likely to allow the children to relocate with a mother than with a father, and are more likely to leave the children in Arizona with a mother than a father.
The official list of factors that the Judge must consider include all of the factors that the Court considers for a normal parenting time case, and the additional following factors:
1) Whether the relocation is being made or opposed in good faith and not to interfere with or to frustrate the relationship between the child and the other parent or the other parent’s right of access to the child.
2) The prospective advantage of the move for improving the general quality of life for the custodial parent or for the child.
3) The likelihood that the parent with whom the child will reside after the relocation will comply with parenting time orders.
4) Whether the relocation will allow a realistic opportunity for parenting time with each parent.
5) The extent to which moving or not moving will affect the emotional, physical or developmental needs of the child.
6) The motives of the parents and the validity of the reasons given for moving or opposing the move including the extent to which either parent may intend to gain a financial advantage regarding continuing child support obligations.
7) The potential effect of relocation on the child’s stability.
You can help your attorney prepare for trial on difficult relocation cases by providing your attorney with stories and events that demonstrate the above factors, and by providing any available documents or evidence that your attorney can use to persuade the Court.