Arizona Child Custody Relocation

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Divorce is a complex matter, especially when children are involved. The process can become even more complicated when a parent chooses to move to a new home or state. A parent’s decision to move out of state and how it affects custody decisions regarding their children can quickly become a contentious matter. To smooth the divorce process and the adjustment time after the divorce, it is critical to learn the ins and outs of relocating with sole or joint custody of your children.

If a divorced parent is considering moving out of state or more than 100 miles away from the original location, both parents should seek legal representation immediately. The state of Arizona’s Family Court strives to ensure all decisions are made while considering the best interests of the children, and an experienced attorney can help parents address child custody matters with this in mind. If you’re looking for an experienced child relocation attorney in the Phoenix area, The Valley Law Group can provide the guidance you need to navigate this difficult matter.

Arizona’s Child Custody and Parental Relocation Laws

According to Arizona law, any move to a new address is defined as relocation. For that reason, whether you move down the street or to a new state entirely, the address change means you’ve relocated. Regardless of where you move, you must inform your child’s other parent of this decision and discuss how it will affect child custody – known in Arizona as “parenting time.”

This is because relocation can create difficult issues for child custody arrangements. If you or your ex-spouse are planning to move, it’s vital for you to consult with an experienced attorney before the move occurs. Relocation can either be a seamless modification to the current child custody arrangement or a new battleground in a difficult family relationship. Because relocation can affect a non-custodial parent’s access to the child (or children), it’s important to reach a mutual arrangement in the child’s best interests.

For example, should a parent wish to relocate out of state with the child, the other parent has the right to petition against the move. If the judge agrees that the move will not be in the best interest of the child, the parent can still relocate, but they cannot bring their child with them. If the move is allowed to proceed, the existing child custody arrangement will likely need to be re-opened and amended to reflect the new distribution of custody and visitation time. It’s cases like these that make child custody relocation legal services crucial.

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

Reviewing Child Custody and Relocation Rights with an Attorney

Almost every state in the U. S. has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). This law ensures that the court making the initial child custody order has exclusive jurisdiction over custody matters for the children involved. The state this court operates within is considered the child’s default home state.

The UCCJEA must be abided by if two requirements are met:

  • One of the child’s parents still lives in the home state.
  • The state was the child’s home state within six months prior to the most recent legal action filed through the court.

If no state is considered the home state, another state can be established as the home state. This state will then have jurisdiction over any custody matters that arise. To qualify, the child and parent must show a “significant connection” to the new home state.

Several different factors are considered when determining a new home state, including:

  • The child’s relationship with both parents
  • Any external or dangerous factors, including domestic violence
  • The child’s physical presence in the state
  • The state’s ability to meet the child’s needs
  • The distance between the two states
  • And more

It is essential to secure a valid court order regarding child custody, as parents can face legal consequences when relocating and violating a court order. To change this court order, a parent must file – and the court must approve – a modification. A skilled Arizona child custody attorney is essential to ensure the process is simple and effective.

Modifying an Arizona Custody Order Under the UCCJEA

If necessary, you can request a modification to your child custody order issued under the UCCJEA.

Typically, the original order will be upheld, but there are two cases where you may be granted a modification:

  • The child and both parents have relocated out of state but not to the same state.
  • The court determines that the jurisdiction over the custody case isn’t optimal, as another state has more contact with the child and parents.

If granted, the state will issue a new custody order, including the modification, and this must be detailed before a new home state can update its custody order. This is a lengthy process, but one that can be completed much more efficiently with an Arizona divorce and family law attorney.

Requesting an Emergency Order Under the UCCJEA

If your child is at risk due to an abusive parent or toxic environment, you can request an emergency order under the UCCJEA. Emergency orders are only temporary, but these are designed to keep children safe from dangerous parents. The parent with full custody must still return to the home court and have the original order modified or eliminated. However, until then, you are able to file an emergency order if it benefits the child.

What to Do If One Parent Decides to Move Out of Arizona

What to Do If One Parent Decides to Move Out of Arizona

There are other aspects of Arizona law you must consider before proceeding with relocation, petitioning against relocation, or requesting a modification.

What to Do Before Relocation

Before a parent relocates, the moving parent is required to submit an official notice to the non-moving parent. The notice must occur at least 60 days before you can relocate the child more than 100 miles away from the original address, even if the new address is within Arizona. This notice must be made by certified mail, and if this isn’t done correctly, it may be subject to sanctions. If a prior provision for relocation exists, or if a court order prevents the child from relocating, you cannot relocate the child but can still relocate yourself.

Failure to meet certain procedural requirements before the relocation can result in a change in your custody rights and even criminal charges.

Petitioning a Parental Relocation

Alternatively, if you are a parent without primary custody and the other parent wishes to relocate with your child, seeking an Arizona relocation attorney is crucial. It is important to act quickly to retain your parenting time. Should you wish to block the relocation of your children, you have 30 days from receiving the notice to request a hearing. For the court to block the child’s relocation, your attorney must be able to prove the following:

  • The move is not in the child’s best interests
  • The move is not being made in good faith.

Keep in mind that if the parent with primary custody is moving due to employment requirements, health, or other extenuating circumstances, the parent is allowed to temporarily relocate their child.

Considering the Child’s Best Interests

The relocating parent must be able to prove that the move is in the best interests of the child. In other words, the burden of proof lies on the relocating parent, and it’s up to that parent to show the move is being made in good faith. The judge will consider the child’s relationship with the non-moving parent, as well as the emotional, developmental, and physical effects the relocation could have on the child. Hiring a child relocation attorney can strengthen your case for relocating your child.


The moving parent isn’t required to provide a visitation schedule, but the court will still ensure the child is able to maintain a strong, meaningful relationship with both parents after the relocation is complete. In many cases, the relocating parent may modify the court order to allow the child to spend additional time, such as vacation time, with the non-moving parent. No matter the decision, both parents must abide by the court’s ruling.

Like custody decisions, visitation can change depending on how it affects the child’s best interests. If a parent wishes to change the visitation schedule, they must file a motion through the court. There must be a one-year gap between the original custody and the parenting schedule order before changes will be accepted. However, if there is evidence of a toxic environment, such as domestic violence, an emergency modification may be granted before the one-year requirement.

Child Custody Guide

Arizona Family Court Makes the Final Decision

After considering all factors of the divorce and child custody case, the court will make a final decision regarding whether a parent can relocate with the child.

This decision is based on the factors previously mentioned, as well as:

  • The relocating parent’s intention to move
  • Which parent is the primary caretaker
  • The wishes of both the parents and the child
  • How the relocation will affect the child’s overall well-being
  • How well the child adjusts to the current environment

No matter your circumstances, it’s imperative to secure representation from child relocation lawyers who can examine your case and achieve the best solution possible.

Why Do I Need a Child Relocation Attorney?

While it’s possible to navigate child custody and relocation matters on your own, this is both difficult and risky. By consulting with child relocation lawyers, you can fully explain your situation to someone who understands Arizona law and its intricacies. You’ll know what to expect whether you are the relocating parent or are attempting to prevent your child’s other parent from moving.

Attorneys are also knowledgeable regarding Arizona parenting laws. While Arizonans can certainly do their own research on law in the state, there are certain details that can easily be overlooked by the average parent. An attorney knows these details and can build a strong case for you. Also, any divorce-related matter can be complicated and emotionally driven, which makes creating your own case difficult. Having legal representation allows you to focus on other matters involved in your situation while your team works on building a case for you.

In addition, relocating without following the proper procedures means you could face repercussions. Not only could you face legal trouble, but the judge may amend the custody order in the other parent’s favor as a result of your actions. Likewise, if a parent wishes to relocate, but you disagree, it is crucial to seek an attorney’s help to file a motion to prevent it immediately. Filing motions against relocation can be complicated, but with legal representation, you have a better chance of achieving the results you want.

Arizona Relocation Laws FAQs

Arizona Relocation Laws FAQs

Relocation cases in Arizona can be stressful, especially if you have additional circumstances that complicate the case. Below are some frequently asked questions our team has received regarding child relocation.

What Is the Best Way to Win My Relocation Case?

You may view your relationship with your child’s other parent as contentious, especially if your divorce ended on a negative note. It’s common for ex-spouses to compete with each other in every aspect, including spending more time with the kids, controlling the location of the child, and more. However, it’s crucial for both to understand that your children are the priority, not winning a competition.

Rather than looking at how to “win” cases, we encourage our clients to look at these cases as ways to improve their child’s overall well-being.

Can I Relocate if I Have Full Custody in Arizona?

According to the UCCJEA, you may be able to relocate if you have full custody in Arizona. If you have full custody of your child and wish to move, your chances are likely better compared to if you and your ex-spouse had joint custody. However, you must go through every step of the legal process, including providing notification to your child’s other parent, and you must demonstrate that the move is in your child’s best interest. The child’s other parent will have the opportunity to petition to block the move.

How Far Can I Move if I Have Joint Custody in Arizona?

Parents who have joint custody of their child are not permitted to move over 100 miles from their current residence without modifying the court order. If a parent wishes to move over 100 miles away or outside the state of Arizona, they must petition to modify the original child custody agreement. A judge must then determine whether the move is in the child’s best interest, approve the motion, and create a new court order.

The Valley Law Group for Arizona Child Custody and Relocation

The Valley Law Group for Arizona Child Custody and Relocation

No matter the circumstances, determining child custody can be challenging, stressful, and overwhelming for both the parents and children. Even after child custody has been finalized, things can still change and will require a timely notification, petition, and modification to ensure the changes meet the child’s best interests. The experienced attorneys at The Valley Law Group have amassed decades of experience handling child custody and relocation in Arizona.

Our team delivers world-class legal services to Arizonans in need through scrupulous attention to detail, time-tested best practices, and unfailing devotion to client service. Our award-winning attorneys understand that service begins and ends with them, and we are fortunate to enjoy positive, lasting relationships with our clients, both large and small.

Contact our Phoenix family law firm today and learn what a difference it makes to have the right people in your corner.

Learn More About Child Custody

Our Team is ready to advocate for you

Our team delivers world-class legal services to Arizonans in need through scrupulous attention to detail, time-tested best practices, and unfailing devotion to client service. Our award-winning attorneys understand that service begins and ends with them, and we are fortunate to enjoy positive, lasting relationships with our clients, both large and small. Contact us today and learn what a difference it makes to have the right people in your corner.


Carmen Segura
Carmen Segura
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Wonderful experience knowledge and responsive. Elda and Jonathan were helpful and responsive to all my questions and concerns . I was going to so much stress Elda was great responding to my emails it never took more than 24 hours to get a respond from her. I highly recommend Elda and Jonathan to all my friends and family.
Catherine Dolan
Catherine Dolan
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Thank you Jon for helping me with my case and making me feel comfortable during the proceedings. I appreciate the guidance you provided and legal recommendations so that I could result in the best possible outcome for my situation. I would have been very lost without your help!
Hannah Ridinger
Hannah Ridinger
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I could not be happier with The Valley Law Group. My case was handled effectively and efficiently. I am very grateful for Cory Keith and the rest of the group. Thank you!
Dan Palmer
Dan Palmer
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Simply put, Ryan is outstanding! ! I’ve used his services exclusively for the last 6+ years on multiple custody and visitation cases. After having gone through three less than transparent attorneys before Ryan, it was incredibly refreshing when I found him. He’s courteous, responsive and the utmost professional. Best of all, I feel that I can trust his advice explicitly. A true rarity in this industry! Bottom line: I wouldn’t consider even having a conversation with another attorney!
John Law
John Law
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Ryan did a good job especially considering I didn't have an attorney most of my divorce. I would recommend him, but get him onboard at the beginning not the end.
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The experience and information that was given to me was of great value. Very professional and with a personal touch. I greatly appreciate all their help. Thank you
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