key in moving box

In this case decided by the Arkansas Court of Appeals two days ago, the mother was wanting to move to California with the parties' 5-year-old daughter.  The father objected and a hearing was held on the mother's request to relocate.

The mother presented evidence that she had been accepted to UCLA in Los Angeles, that she had extended family there (including her mother and that she would help with child care), that there were several excellent schools in the Marina Del Rey (suburb) area, and that there were numerous opportunities (museums, world-renowned parks, etc.) afforded by the Los Angeles area that are not available in Hot Springs.

(Side note: Having lived in Los Angeles, I can speak firsthand about the great opportunities there.  However, as a USC grad, I must extend my condolences to the appellant herein on her admission to UCLA :)  Go Trojans! )

The father appears to have presented very little persuasive evidence in opposition to the request.  However, he did point out that visitation would be virtually non-existent during the school year due to the substantial distance.  (The mother had countered this by stating the father could have more time during holidays and the Summer.)

In Arkansas, the burden of proof is on the parent that is notmoving to prove that the move would be detrimental to the child.  The factors for the court to review are:  (1) the reason for the relocation; (2) the educational, health, and leisure opportunities available in the location in which the custodial parent and children will relocate; (3) visitation and communication schedule for the noncustodial parent; (4) the effect of the move on the extended family relationships in the location in which the custodial parent and children will relocate, as well as Arkansas; and, (5) preference of the child, including the age, maturity, and the reasons given by the child as to his or her preference.  (See  Hollandsworth v. Knyzewski, 353 Ark. 470, 109 S.W.3d 653 (2003) - the seminal case on relocation in Arkansas.)

It would appear that the mother has put forth a persuasive case for relocation.  But the trial judge ruled against her and denied her request to relocate.  His primary reasons were that he didn't find the UCLA opportunity to be particularly persuasive and also that although "the opportunities of Los Angeles may be different than Hot Springs, they are by no means superior."

The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, finding that the trial court had improperly shifted the burden of proof to the mother.

Taking it a step further, its hard for me to understand the trial judge's evaluation of the evidence presented.  Sure seems like the mother should have won this one at the trial court level - whether it was her burden or not.

Click here for the case.

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