Divorce is difficult on the entire family, but children are often affected the hardest. If you are a divorced or separated parent and are considering relocating with your child, you should know that you might not be allowed to move, especially if the court decides the relocation is not in the child’s best interest.
If you are moving a relatively short distance or the move will not affect the current custody arrangement, the move should not be an issue. However, to move your child out of the state or a considerable distance within the state, you will need either an agreement with the other parent or court approval. If you have questions about whether you need to get approval to move or if you need help convincing a court that you should be able to relocate with your child, you should speak with an experienced family law and child custody attorney.
In this article, we’ll highlight a few key custody terms and discuss how a court will determine whether a custodial parent can move with their child.
5 Key Child Custody Terms
Child custody can be complicated, so before you dive into whether you can relocate with your child, make sure you understand these five custody terms.
- Primary Custodial Parent: The parent who has primary physical custody of the child — meaning the child lives with that parent most of the time.
- Legal Custody: The right to make decisions for the child that have lasting or more long-term significance, such as decisions about education, religious practice, and healthcare.
- Joint Custody: Both parents have relatively equal physical and/or legal custody of the child.
- Visitation: The time the child spends with the parent who does not have primary custody, as outlined in the custody agreement.
- Relocation: The custodial parent is seeking to move away with the child — either out of state or a certain distance away.
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What Determines Whether I Can Relocate With My Child?
If you are trying to move your child out of state or a significant distance away and cannot reach an agreement about the relocation with the other parent, the court has the right to determine whether you can move. There are often advdantages and disadvantages regarding the relocation of a child during a custody case. So, if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, the court will likely permit the move.
The court will have to determine whether, in the judge’s opinion, the move is in the best interest of the child. In a move-away case, there are a variety of factors the judge will consider when making this determination, including:
1. What are the advantages of the relocation in terms of improving the life of the child?
This factor looks at how the move will make life better for the child. Examples may include moving closer to the parent’s family so there is a better support network, whether the schools are substantially better in the new location, or if the weather in the new location might help a chronic health problem the child has.
2. What are the motives of the primary custodial parent in seeking the move?
Sometimes, a parent will attempt to move out of state to avoid court rulings or to make visitation more difficult. These are certainly negative reasons to move, and the court will not look favorably on them. However, if you have a legitimate reason to move, such as for a new job, safer neighborhood, or better school district, your motives will be viewed as having a positive impact on the child.
3. What is the likelihood that the primary custodial parent will comply with visitation orders?
Depending on how far you are trying to relocate, visitation could become difficult. A visitation and travel agreement will need to be worked out with the other parent. The court will consider how likely you are to comply with the visitation agreement and assist the other parent with their visitation rights and arrangements.
4. Does the noncustodial parent have a reason to resist the relocation?
Sometimes a noncustodial parent may have legitimate reasons to resist the child’s relocation. If the noncustodial parent has a concern about how the relocation will affect the child or their relationship with the child, they will likely hire an attorney to help them present a strong argument against the relocation. You should always keep the child’s best interests in mind, but if you believe the noncustodial parent would be wrong to resist the relocation, hire an experienced family law attorney for help supporting your move.
5. Will the relocation significantly weaken the noncustodial parent’s relationship with the child?
Another reason a noncustodial parent may oppose the relocation is if they are concerned that it may have a serious effect on their relationship with the child. The stress and hassle of long-distance visitation and travel arrangements can make visits less frequent, shorter, and less enjoyable. If the relocation is likely to have such a negative effect on the relationship between the noncustodial parent and child, the court may deny the request. In this case, it is important to prove to the court that you will do whatever is necessary to help the noncustodial parent foster their relationship with your child.
The judge should consider all the factors outlined above, and no one factor trumps the others. There may also be other factors to bring up when considering a move or opposing a move, depending on the facts of your case.
Myers Law Firm: Experienced Family Law and Child Custody Attorneys
Not sure if you need permission to relocate with your child? Contact Myers Law Firm to discuss your custody and relocation options. Our experienced family law and child custody attorneys will help you understand your rights and options.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.