Arizona legislators are mulling changes in existing child custody laws that could prohibit custodial parents from changing their residence unless it’s less than two miles and allows the child to remain in the same school district. Current laws allow a parent to move within a 100-mile radius without approval from the legal system.
If SB1038 becomes law, a judge would no longer factor in what’s best for the parent, on the basis of career or otherwise, and his or her decision would consider only what’s best for the child(ren).
The potential fallout
The proposed changes could prove problematic. Custodial parents could face legal challenges from resentful, controlling former spouses who seek to interfere in the daily lives of their ex.
But advocates of the proposed changes say that they are long overdue, because cities have expanded over the last 20 years since the 100-mile rule was put in place. Non-custodial parents increasingly are forced to spend hours driving to pick up and return their children from visitation, which whittles down the quality time they would otherwise get to spend with their kids.
Advocates say that another problem with the present law is that parents have used the 100-mile rule to make repeated, serial moves of less than 100 miles over a period of time, thus gaming the system and causing the non-custodial parent to have to add miles to his or her travel time to see the children and to attend sports and educational events.
The proposal also includes a 45-day notice requirement. For parents who rent an apartment and receive a 30-day notice to vacate, this can be a nightmare. Finding suitable housing within a two-mile radius that doesn’t require the court’s intervention may prove extremely difficult, even impossible, and will certainly be stressful and problematic for the custodial parent.
The current legal situation
The law as it stands takes into consideration whether the move will improve the quality of life for the parent and the child. Taking the parent out of the equation ignores factors such as a 90-minute to two-hour one-way commute to the job, which has a negative impact on the parent’s quality of life by reducing sleep and free time otherwise available to interact with the children.
Factoring in the parent’s quality of life typically improves the child’s living conditions as well, either in the form of increased time with the custodial parent or being able to enjoy a higher standard of living.
What the new law portends
The proposed law is evidence of a sea change in custody laws across the land, as courts have begun to weigh both parents’ rights more evenly in custody disputes in an attempt to divvy up time spent with the child in a more equitable manner than in the past. Non-custodial parents are becoming more vocal, and challenging the court system that historically ignored their position when making custody decisions.
If you’re a parent who would be adversely affected by the proposed law, you might want to schedule a consult with an Arizona lawyer who practices divorce and family law. He or she can review your case and advise you how to proceed.