Relocation is a very delicate subject for divorced parents. In an ideal world, the parents live near each other and the child or children move effortlessly back and forth between the residences. However, the reality can be quite different. A custodial parent may want or need to move and take the child with them.
The courts generally believe that it is in the child’s best interests for both parents to be active in their child’s life. The parent wishing or needing to relocate will need a judge’s permission. Those who move without the court’s consent can face severe consequences.
What does the divorce agreement say?
The answer depends upon the divorce agreement. Many states will only allow a child custody relocation if the current custody agreement enables the move. This option is typically part of the original divorce agreement; however, there may be a modification or update approved by a judge.
Starting the process
The parent with residential custody wishing to move to another state will need to change the visitation agreement to accommodate the move. They should notify the coparent in writing 30 days before the move, but 90 days is a good idea if you anticipate the other parent resisting the move.
If the other parent allows the changes to visitation, they can put the visitation modification in writing and file a copy with the court. It should include a new visitation schedule that outlines times and locations, including holidays, school breaks and other considerations.
Resolving a dispute
Those who cannot agree on a new arrangement to accommodate the move can ask the court to decide. The judge may allow the parent and child to move, but they also could give the other parent residential custody, particularly if you did not provide proper notice. The court’s goal is to determine the child’s best interests and consider the reality of supporting and raising a family. The judge will look for such good faith reasons as:
- Being closer to family members who can help with childcare
- Starting a new or better paying job
- Allowing you to pursue professional training or a degree
- Living somewhere that enables you to have a better standard of living
The odds of winning the dispute will improve if your ex-spouse does not exercise their visitation rights or is not active in your child’s life. Conversely, the court may determine that the move is a spiteful one done out of revenge.
Weighing other factors
The reasons for the move will have much bearing on the dispute, but the court will also weigh:
- The distance of the proposed relocation
- The difficulty in maintaining the relationship with the child
- Why the other parent does not want the move to happen
- What the child wants
Do not break the rules
A parent who does not follow the abovementioned rules could find themselves in a complicated legal battle with strikes against them for violating a legal agreement. Those with questions about a proposed move can discuss the matter with a family law attorney. These legal professionals can provide insight and strategies for creating or making changes to the custody and visitation agreement.