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Updated Apr 15, 2014 - 3:14 pm

Arizona House rejects move notice to noncustodial parents

PHOENIX -- The Arizona House on Tuesday rejected a bill that would have made it more difficult for a divorced mother or father to move with the children without getting the approval of a court.

Senate Bill 1038 by Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, would have replaced a current law requiring notifications to non-custodial parents and possible court approval if the move is out of state or more than 100 miles away. The new law would have required a custodial parent seeking to move more than 10 miles to give a 45-day notice to the parent who doesn't have custody and in some cases get court approval.

Proponents say the current rule has been abused by some parents who make a series of moves, impairing the ability of non-custodial parents to participate in school activities and visitation.

Opponents argue it could affect the ability of a custodial parent to take a new job or buy a house and allow a non-custodial parent to harass his or her former spouse by objecting to the move.

The bill failed on a 38-22 vote Tuesday, but in a procedural move it will get a second vote Thursday. That allows proponents time to convince opponents to change their vote. The Senate has approved the bill, but it must vote a second time because of changes in the House.

Opponents came from both parties, however, and they focused on the ability of a non-custodial parent to block a move simply to make life more difficult for their ex-spouses.

``I don't believe that this bill is an innocuous as it appears to be,'' said Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert ``I think it's well intentioned, but this doesn't consider ... where the non-primary custodial parent really has no interest in the children other than to make the custodial parent's life miserable.''

Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, pleaded with fellow member to support the bill.

``Sen. Barto has worked on this bill for four years, has brought in all the stakeholders, has brought in the courts, has brought in the domestic-violence experts,'' Lesko said. ``It keeps the best interest of the child in mind - most parents figure out their parenting agreements.''

Like all child custody issues, the proposed changes to the 100-mile ``bright line'' rule dive deep into the problems surrounded divorce, child custody and the ``parenting time'' non-custodial parents are entitled to under the law. The re-write has been in the works for four years and was introduced last year, but it died. As originally written last year, it said any move required a new formal notice.

A series of changes last year and this year made moves of 10 miles presumptively inconsequential, although still requiring a notice. Parents on a new state domestic-violence confidentiality registry would be exempt.

Rep. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, also said the changes would help ensure parents focus on the best interests of their child.

``Having seen these scenarios of one spouse or one parent moving away from the other parent - generally it is one parent trying to exercise control over the other parent - and always the victim is the child,'' Borrelli said. ``This forces them to come to an agreement like parents for the sake of their child instead of having to go to court over and over and over.''

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