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Know the Laws: Arizona

UPDATED July 29, 2013

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As with everything on this site, this information is not legal advice. Custody is complicated and it is important to try to find an experienced lawyer to help you with your case.  To read information on finding a lawyer, please click on the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.  Note: In Arizona, custody is known as "legal decision-making” and visitation is known as “parenting time.”  

What happens after a legal decision-making and parenting time order is in place

back to topHow do I modify (change) a legal decision-making and parenting time order?

To change (modify) a final legal decision-making and parenting time order, you must fall into one of the following categories: 

  • one year has passed since the order was issued, in most cases;
  • the judge allows the order to be modified if there is reason to believe that the child’s present environment may put the child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health in serious danger;
  • six months have passed since an order for joint legal decision-making was entered, and the other parent has not followed the order; or
  • you can file to modify at any time if you have joint custody and there is evidence that domestic violence, spousal abuse or child abuse occurred since the order was entered.* 

Please note that some special rules apply to military families. To read about the modification of legal decision-making orders that involve military families, read section A.R.S. § 25-411 on our AZ Statutes page.

To change a legal decision-making and parenting time order that is already in place, you generally need to file a motion with the court that issued the order, even if you moved.  Generally, for the court to change your legal decision-making or parenting time order, you need to show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since your last hearing and that the new arrangement would be in the best interest of your child.

You can find the forms you will need to fill out for a modification of legal decision-making at our AZ Download Court Forms page.  You can find legal help with this process through our AZ Finding a Lawyer page.

* A.R.S. § 25-411

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back to topWhat steps do I have to take if I want to try to relocate out of state?

If both parents are entitled to joint legal decision-making or unsupervised parenting time (either by written agreement or by court order) and both parents reside in the state, either must give the other parent at least 60 days' notice in writing (sent certified mail, return receipt requested) if s/he wants to do either of the following:

  • relocate the child outside to another state; or
  • relocate the child more than 100 miles away from his/her current home (but still within the state of Arizona).*
The parent who receives this notice then has 30 days to file a petition in court to prevent the relocation of the child (although the time to file may be extended if the parent can prove there is "good cause" to do so).**

In certain circumstances, the parent may temporarily relocate with the child while the court is deciding the parent's petition to prevent the relocation - see subsection E of § 25-408 in our AZ Statutes page to read about these specific circumstances.  If you are unsure about whether or not you can move while the court case is pending, please talk to a lawyer first.  See our AZ Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals.

* A.R.S. § 25-408(A)
** A.R.S. § 25-408(C)

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back to topWhat factors will a judge consider when deciding whether or not to allow me to relocate with my child?

When deciding whether or not to allow a child to relocate to another state (or to relocate more than 100 miles within the state), the judge will consider the following:

  1. the factors listed in How will a judge make a decision about legal decision-making and parenting time?;
  2. if the relocation is being made (or opposed) in good faith and not for the purpose of trying to interfere with or frustrate the relationship or right of access between the child and the other parent;
  3. if the move will improve the general quality of life for the custodial parent or for the child;
  4. the likelihood that the relocating parent will follow parenting time orders;
  5. if the relocation will allow a realistic opportunity for each parent to have parenting time;
  6. how much moving (or not moving) will affect the emotional, physical or developmental needs of the child;
  7. the motives of the parents and the validity of the reasons given for moving (or opposing the move) including whether either parent may gain a financial advantage regarding continuing child support obligations; and
  8. the potential effect of relocation on the child's stability.*
* A.R.S. § 24-508(H)

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back to topCan a parent who does not have legal decision-making responsibilities have access to the child's records?

Usually, yes.  Whether or not a noncustodial parent has access to the child's school records, medical records, prescription medication records, court records and police records may depend on what your legal decision-making and parenting time agreement says.  If your legal decision-making and parenting time order is silent about this fact, both parents would have access to these types of records regarding the child.  In fact, if you do not comply with a reasonable request for these records, you can be ordered to reimburse the requesting parent for court costs and attorney fees that the parent spends to force you to comply with this law and you can be punished by the court as well. compliance with this section.*

The judge could limit the parent's right to these records if s/he determines that access by the noncustodial parent would place the child’s or custodial parent’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health in serious danger.**  If you would like to limit the other parent's access to your child's records, be sure to tell this to the judge.  If the judge refuses to deny access, and you are living in a confidential address, you might want to take steps to try to keep your address confidential such as asking your child’s doctors, schools, etc. if you can give a P.O. box instead of your actual address.

* A.R.S. § 25-403.06(A),(B),(D) 
** A.R.S. § 25-408(J)

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WomensLaw.org thanks Lynne Norris at the AZCADV for her help in putting together this material, Sarah Youngblood, Managing Attorney at Community Legal Services, Eastside Office for her help in revising this section, and Merri Tiseth and Shannon Rich at the AZCADV for their revisions.

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