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Divorced parents moving less, affect migration patterns

Parents in Arizona and throughout the country who divorce are less likely to move out of state because of child custody. This may be leading to a nationwide trend in which people are moving less than they used to. Over the past 50 years, demographers have noted that people move half as much as they used to. However, they have been unable to explain the cause.

One researcher decided to look at the data during a stint on a Fulbright fellowship. Potential factors he examined included homeownership, the economy and age. However, he found that homeownership rates have not significantly changed in 20 years and that ups and downs in the economy do not appear to affect migration. When he corrected an older population, he found that age was not a reason for the trend either.

The increase in divorce rates led him to look at how families have become more complex. He then identified the growing trend toward joint custody as a major reason for the lack of migration. In the past, divorced fathers tended to be less involved in their children's lives, but this is no longer the case. Today, parents often share custody, and leaving the state means losing that custody.

Parents may be concerned about losing access to their children, but sometimes, it may be possible to reach a satisfying child custody agreement through negotiation. If parents cannot come to an agreement, litigation may be necessary. A judge will make a decision based on the child's best interests, so a parent who wants custody may need to be prepared to demonstrate that they spend a significant amount of time with the child. One parent, usually the one who is awarded less custody time, may also be required to pay child support to the other.

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