Child Custody

questions & answers

Question: Is there specific paper I need to move out of state after a divorce where I have received sole custody of the children

Answer:

Yes! - unless the divorce decree also denies the other parent *all* visitation, too, or unless the divorce decree expressly gives you that relocation option. Such orders are quite rare, so I will assume that the non-custodial parent still has the right to some degree of visitation with your children. I will also assume that the divorce decree does not allow you to move wherever (and whenever) you please with the children. Even though you possess sole custody of the children, you must still respect the parental rights of the non-custodial mother/father unless those rights were formally terminated (e.g. because of severe abuse, neglect, voluntary relinquishment of parental rights, or child abandonment).

You can accomplish interstate relocation in one of two ways. First, you can send a letter to the other parent - by certified mail, return receipt requested, or by formal process server. The letter will give the other parent 'notice' of your intention to move to a new state. You must give the other parent at least 60 days advance notice of your plans to move. Once you have done this, the other parent has 30 days to petition the court to prevent your move. Even if that happens, since you have sole legal custody, you are entitled to *temporarily* move while you await the court's decision if immediate health, safety or employment concerns require it - so long as you understand that the judge may require you to return to AZ at some point.

The other (and probably safer option) is to file a formal motion of your own, asking the judge for permission to move out of state. The motion should explain why the move is necessary or appropriate, and provide a suggested parenting plan that will respect the "left behind" parent's visitation rights. The judge would then decide your motion, just as she would decide his objection to your letter notice. Either method is permissible, and both have pros and cons.

The "letter notification" method is easier, quicker and involves no court filings or lawyers. If the other parent signs for the letter but fails to object, then s/he has only him/herself to blame for not saying something when the time was right. On the other hand, most judges seem to prefer a straightforward motion from the parent who wishes to relocate. Frankly, it looks a little less "sneaky" than the letter method, and it makes you seem a little more respectful of the court's authority - even though state law clearly gives you the right to handle it on your own.

Much probably depends on the background dynamics in your particular family, too. For example, you should evaluate whether one of you has a history of domestic violence, or providing false testimony, or disobeying court orders, or concealing the children from the other parent, or denying court-ordered visitation, or trying to relocate once before (with or without success). Relocation is a pretty serious step, both for the children and the other parent. You should consider speaking with a family law attorney before taking that step. See A.R.S § 25-408. You should read it carefully.

Comments:

On 4/5/07
Ed said
Click on the red link in the answer above

On 4/5/07
dee said
Where does one get a copy of ARS 25-408?

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