- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 15, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - 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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