My question involves a child custody case from the State of: Arizona (and possibly New York)
(Sorry for the length of the post, I wanted to be detailed)
I have joint custody with the father of our 5 year old daughter. I am the primary custodial parent and financial circumstances have caused us to move in with my family, who live about 60 minutes from my ex in a different town and county. We have lived here for the past 2+ months, since which, I have found a full time job. The divorce was final in March 2009, and I see no geographical restrictions on the decree.
My boyfriend and I have been dating since October 2008 and living together since March 2009. We have a stable relationship and plan to get married one day. We would like to move to New York, where he lived until he moved to AZ to be with me (in January 2009). His entire family is there and he also has a job lined up for him. I have visited and feel it is exactly the type of place I've always wanted to raise my daughter - it's actually one of the safest cities in the US. I've never really liked AZ, grew up on the east coast, but stayed here because of my ex's job while we were married. I feel it is in our best interest to make the move there, as it is safer, there is a better school system and more opportunities for employment and stability. I was out of work/doing temporary work for 6 months prior to moving in with family and have also been on state assistance. I offered my ex plenty of parenting time with our daughter, including both long breaks in the winter and the summer - that means he would have her for Christmas as well as her birthday. It is equivalent to the amount of time he already has with her, if not more. I even offered to split the cost of travel with him.
I sent my ex 60 days notice of our intent to move and since then he has sent a reply letter indicating he is very much against to move; he feels if I want to go I can and he would provide visits here in AZ for me to see our daughter - no mention of her visiting NY to visit us. I would never agree to her living with him, much less only to visit her and never have her visit us in NY. He wants it only on his terms, his "turf" and it's so frustrating. Our marriage ended because he became too controlling and apparently he is still trying to do so.
We set up with the conciliation court to go into voluntary mediation in order to resolve this, (there is no court case) but I am concerned I will be at a major disadvantage because he has had a stable job for the past 10 years, he has lived with family since before the divorce allowing him to save up money and apparently is planning on moving into a house sometime soon (although I suspect that is his girlfriend's house he was alluding to). I took on all of our debt before we divorced so he had good enough credit to purchase us a house, but unfortunately the marriage fell apart soon after. He looks much better on paper than I do, but our daughter has spent the majority of her life with me; I was a stay at home mom for the first year of her life, and for the next 4 years while I was working, she came to work with me a few days a week. It was only recently that we have spent less time together and that's because she is now in kindergarten. We have a very close bond that would affect us both greatly if we were to be separated.
Her dad is not only against us relocating, but apparently has a problem with where we currently live as well as the amount of parenting time he has. Where I live is a little beyond my control, as financially I was unable to stay in the same town as him, not to mention after 10 years of marriage, I didn't ask for alimony and only receive half of the state's recommendation for child support because I wanted to be "nice" and not take him to the cleaners - what a mistake. He can visit her as often as he likes, but chooses not to because of the drive....I always meet him halfway so neither of us has to drive very long.
My boyfriend recently went on ahead to New York in order to prepare for us to join him. He'll be working and setting up a place to live for us to move to once we are finished with mediation....that is, if we are still able to move to NY.
I guess my questions are: Do I have the right to move with my daughter at the end of this month as we originally planned or do I need to complete mediation first? How long does mediation usually take? Do I actually have a chance to still move, or will I be stuck here - someplace I hate - because of him? I feel like I'd be giving up my future if I have to stay in AZ. Any and all advice would be appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to read this.