Relocation: An Example
A young married couple from California have a two-year-old child. Sarah, the mother, works on computers and builds web sites. The parties divorce by agreement or consent decree, and Joe moves to Mesa to live with his parents. After he is here with the child more than 6 months, Sarah moves to Arizona to start up a small company owned by her family. Joe meets a woman, Rachel, who lives in California and has been building a successful business there for 10 years. They marry, and a baby is due in a couple of months.
Joe files a petition to relocate to California.
The parents have joint legal decision-making. Pursuant to A.R.S. 25-408A1, Joe has to give at least sixty days notice before he can move. The factors the court must consider in deciding whether to allow him to relocate to California are:
- Factors from A.R.S. 25-403
- Relocation made in good faith or to frustrate parenting time
- The prospective advantage for parent’s or child’s quality of life
- Likelihood residential parent will comply with parenting time orders
- Whether realistic parenting time is possible with the move
- Whether moving will affect the emotional, physical or developmental needs of the child
- The motive for moving, including attempting to gain a financial advantage for child support
- Affect on child’s stability
The best interests of the child is normally to have both parents live in the same state. Even better, they might live in the same neighborhood, or within a mile of each other. Relocation is necessary sometimes. Arizona law recognizes the importance of employment. For example, the impact of a child of having a parent or step-parent who earns $80,000 a year in one state, or $20,000 in Arizona (because they can’t find an equivalent job here) will impact many aspects of the child’s well-being and the family’s standard of living. The dilemma here is that the child will be able to live with both parents in Arizona, or the new baby to be born can live with both parents in California.
The only way for everything to work out is for Sarah to relocate to California. Rachel’s business and standard of living have far greater value than Sarah’s, after 10 years of building a business. Sarah was previously employed in California, and can be employed there again. Of course, in reality there are always more factors the court must consider. For example, most of the extended family for Joe and Sarah may live in Arizona. On the other hand, Rachel’s extended family may live in California.
The Importance of Policy
Arizona laws greatly impact families in divorce and relocation matters. The way the laws are enacted should be based on sound policy:
Should there be a policy punishing Joe because he decided to fall in love with and marry someone from another state, causing the dilemma? In other words, should the judge order the child to stay in Arizona? How important to us is the right to marry whom we choose?
How important is employment to a family? Should equal parenting time for both parents be considered over employment?