Arizona’s Relocation Statute
Our Chandler Divorce Attorneys can help you understand this topic
A frequent concern of many clients, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, is that splitting custody of the children with their spouse will tether them to their spouse until their children reach adulthood. Indeed, courts all across the nation have struggled with how to give each parent a fair share of custody and parenting time with their children without forbidding either parent from moving to a new locale. In Arizona, A.R.S. § 25-408 sets ground rules for the parents and courts to follow when relocating with children. For instance, Arizona’s Relocation Statute requires a parent to give at least forty-five days notice if they are going to relocate the child more than one hundred miles within the state or outside of the state. At which point, the other parent will be allowed to dispute the relocation and advocate against moving the child this distance.
The question remains, however, distance from where? Where is the magic point on the map from where the Arizona courts will not let a parent move more than a hundred miles without the possibility of a hearing? The question was addressed in Thompson v Thompson, 217 Ariz. 524.
FACTS OF THOMPSON V. THOMPSON
Tanya (“Mother”) and Roger Thompson (“Father”) began divorce proceedings in Arizona in 2004. While the case was ongoing, a temporary order gave Mother custody of the couple’s three children and Father visitation rights. Mother was not precluded during that time from moving to Show Low, AZ, which she informed the court she wished to do. Show Low was approximately 48 miles away from the Father, and 73 miles from her original home in Alpine. In 2005, the final decree was entered while the Mother was still in Show Low. It awarded her custody of the three children with, “Liberal parenting time” for Father.
A year passed and Mother found full-time employment in Payson, AZ, meaning she wanted to again move. This second move was 90 miles away from her home in Show Low, and 138 miles away from Father’s home in Eagar. Again, Father objected to the move. This time, however, he argued that Payson would be over the 100-mile limit of A.R.S. § 25-408. Mother, however, claimed that she was within her rights under the statute to move even without serving notice to Father because she was not moving more than 100 miles away from her home at the time of the dissolution. The case would make it to the Arizona Court of Appeals.
RULE IN THOMPSON
The court’s job in Thompson was fairly simple: if Arizona law prohibits a parent from relocating the child more than 100 miles without notifying the other parent, then what point do we measure from? The Arizona Court of Appeals answered this question by looking at the competing interests involved in child relocation cases. On the one hand, the rights of both parents in this case and others like it are intertwined. If Mother is allowed to move too far away, then it will become too costly, burdensome, and time-consuming for Father to see his children. At the same time, custody disputes are not intended to serve as tethers between the two parents, holding them closely together against their will or else their relationship with their children may be terminated.
Given these competing interests, the Court of Appeals ruled that A.R.S. § 25-408 should be construed as allowing a move up to 100 miles from the relocating parent’s address at the time of the written agreement or court order entitling both parents to custody or parenting time. This interpretation gives the Court a firm moment in time—the time the agreement or order is entered—from which they can create a status quo. The agreement or order essentially creates a frozen moment in time for the Court to reference back to when determining if one parent has made matters too difficult for the other parent by moving. Mother in this case was therefore allowed to move to Payson, despite it being 138 miles away from Father, because Payson was less than 100 miles from her home in Show Low at the time of the decree.
If you are dealing with a similar issue, or just have general questions about child custody or divorce, or information about Arizona’s Relocation Statute, Citadel Law Firm can help. Contact us by clicking here or call us at 480-565-0046 to talk to us today.