Jeff Biddle 2013-07-17 00:08:54
Considerations For Relocation Jeff Biddle owns Biddle Law Firm, PLLC, a boutique firm that focuses on family law and consumer bankruptcy cases. Biddle received his B.S. in economics from the University of Utah in 1997 and a J.D. in 2005 from Emory University. He worked as a family law attorney before starting his own firm in 2007. As a child of divorce and a divorced father of four, Biddle helps families through the difficult process of divorce, working with parents in a broken family to discover solutions to the family problems without resorting to litigation if possible. www.TheBiddleLawFirm.com T: (480) 840-3138 School is out for the summer, the kids are outside playing and their parents are inside litigating. Parents often use the breaks from school to make significant changes like moving. Currently, the law only requires notification of a move if it is more than 100 miles. SB 1072 proposes to drastically change A.R.S. § 25-408 and eliminate the 100-mile relocation requirement. Changes in your clients’ lives, the recent legislative change in title 25 and the court’s strong preference for joint legal decision-making and equal parenting time mean that many parents are likely to beat the summer heat by heading to an air-conditioned courtroom. Don’t Forget the Kids When You move The most significant change to the relocation statute proposed by SB 1072 is that it redefines relocation of a child as a residential move that may result in a material change of circumstances affecting the best interests of the child. This includes a change to the child’s school, a significant decrease in the child’s time with either parent, a significant impact on the child’s established routine in the home, school or community, or a move to an address outside of Arizona. It is easy to see that with these parameters, a move of far less than 100 miles could result in any number of these changes. Under the new A.R.S. 25-403, the court must do a “best interests” analysis if the relocation results in a material change of circumstances. Don’t Forget the New Statutory changes When You Go To court Beginning January 1, 2013, the legislature enacted statutory changes that impacted family law, which are extremely important in relocation cases. These changes essentially redefined custody, a term that non-lawyers often misinterpreted to mean physical custody. When discussing children, the legislature now refers to physical custody as parenting time and legal decision-making. It is clear that the preference is toward equal parenting time and joint legal decision-making. Forcing fathers to be parents only on every other weekend places the responsibility far too much on mothers. The responsibility to parent should be borne by both parents equally. Children require a mother and a father to be created and I am happy to see that the courts and legislature have decided that children need both parents after conception as well. Below is some important information to consider when litigating a relocation case: Parent-child relationship Before 2013, the court would consider which parent was the primary caretaker of the child. Now, however, the court must consider the past, present and potential future relationship between the parent and child. If your client has not been that involved with their child’s schooling, religion or other activities in the past, instruct them to take a more active role. While the court typically isn’t supposed to make predictions about the future, presenting evidence about how the relationship between parent and child will improve or deteriorate as a result of the relocation is extremely important. Parents that have been extremely involved in the past should show how relocation will either improve their relationship with the child or, more importantly, show how it will not cause the relationship with the other parent to deteriorate. Parents that have been less involved in the past need to explain why, show positive changes they are making to improve the relationship with the child and explain how the relocation will make the relationship harder to maintain and improve. Being an active parent is extremely rewarding and pays dividends that last a lifetime. Impact of relocation on the child If relocation will cause changes to the child’s routine, the court will need to know the pros and cons of the relocation. Present a school comparison if the school is changing. Look for changes in crime statistics between the new and old residence and the other parent’s residence. How many friends does the child have in the old neighborhood? Are they bonded with friends or mentors at their church? The court should also be presented with evidence regarding involvement with school sports or groups, church activities, and other extracurricular activities that may be changing. It will also be important to present the court with information regarding the amount of driving that the child will be subjected if relocation is allowed. While relocation is often viewed by the parent relocating as a very positive change, both of the parents and the court need to also consider the impact of the relocation on the child. Growing up in a fractured family can be difficult for some children and the effects of relocation should be heavily weighed before making another drastic change in the child’s life. The opportunity to relocate should be a chance to make a positive improvement in the child’s life. Parents should look at this as a chance to identify the root causes for any strain in their relationship and correct them.
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