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Relocation – What it takes to win

by | Jul 31, 2023 | Parenting, Relocation

In 2023 Hanna Amar and Logan Matura of our firm won an important Family Court case involving a parent’s request to move out of state with the children (known as a “Relocation” case), and just this month the trial court’s decision was upheld by the Arizona Court of Appeals.

Relocating out of the state, with children is one of the most difficult things to achieve in Family Court. The “Best Interest of the Children” is the standard judges use in every child custody case, including relocation cases. However, Arizona also has a law requiring the Court to maximize the parenting time of both parents. So, if maximizing both parents parenting time is what’s considered to be in the best interest of the children, then how does any parent succeed in requesting relocation?

In our latest relocation case, our firm represented a mother who wanted to move to another state, across the country, with her children. As with all relocation cases, it was a fight, but through much hard work, strategic planning, and courtroom experience we were able to demonstrate to the Court that the move was in the children’s best interest. We did this by presenting crucial facts, multiple scenarios and logistics, and other relevant information. One major factor that we were concerned might work against us was the law requiring the Court to maximize both parents’ parenting time, which many experts interpret to mean equal parenting time. Obviously, there is no opportunity for equal parenting time when the children live across the country from one of the parents. However, in our case, we were able to persuade the Court that not only did the relocation serve the children’s best interest, but it also allowed for maximum parenting time under the circumstances. And we won.

The father and his attorney immediately appealed the decision, arguing that the mother should be prohibited from moving with the children because it would violate the statute requiring the Court to maximize the father’s parenting time. They claimed that the mother needed to prove not only that the relocation was in the children’s best interest, but that the advantages of relocating outweighed the public policy of “maximizing each parents parenting time.” Both the trial court and the appellate court Justices rejected the father’s argument. They ruled that if the lower court determines first that relocation is in the best interests of the child, then the issue of maximizing parenting time will be addressed thereafter. Parenting time, and how to “maximize” it, will be assessed under the reality that the children are going to be living away from one of the parents and, therefore, that parent will have less parenting time than they would have had if the parents were living in the same city.

In explaining its decision, the Court of Appeals stated: “Maximizing parenting time is a priority, but the best interests of the children is paramount under A.R.S. §§ 25-103, 25-403.02, and 25-408. Accordingly, the court is not required to award Father the maximum parenting time possible, ‘particularly when the [parents] live in different states or are separated by a considerable distance,’ if it would not be in the children’s best interests.”

This case was a big victory for our client and is huge for parents wanting to relocate. The focus is, as it always should be, on the best interest of the children. That doesn’t mean the burden is not significant. And it doesn’t mean parenting time is not a major issue. It takes a lot to convince a judge to separate a parent from their children. But knowing that the Court truly views the best interests of the children as paramount should give every parent some hope.

Let's Discuss Your Case - We're Here For You.

When dealing with a family matter issue, you do not have to go at it alone. Schedule your comprehensive attorney consultation now and we can discuss the entire case.

Let's Discuss Your Case - We're Here For You.

When dealing with a family matter issue, you do not have to go at it alone. Give us a call and we can discuss the entire case during a comprehensive attorney consultation.

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