When custodial parents wish or need to relocate to someplace where the children involved will be some distance from the other parent, it usually means, at the very least, a change to the custody and visitation agreement. It can also result in a serious legal dispute with the noncustodial parent.
If noncustodial parents don't agree to their children's relocation, the matter may end up in court. Judges often make decisions based on state child custody laws and what's in the children's best interests. These laws vary, but they often look at several key issues.
In some states, parents may be prohibited from moving a child more than a specified distance, such as 100 miles. However, in others, no out-of-state move may be allowed, even if it's a relatively short distance.
If parents have joint custody of children and a long-distance move is approved, a judge may determine that it's best for the children if one parent (often the one who's not relocating) to take primary custody to help maintain stability in their lives. The parent who is moving may also be ordered to pay transportation costs incurred in custody transfers and visitation.
Notice and Consent
Some state laws require written notice by the custodial parent to the co-parent of the intended move within a specified period of time, such as 90 days. The other parent may or may not be allowed to file a motion denying consent to the move.
Some parents will have an "express consent" agreement in the original custody plan that allows child relocation. This agreement often contains a visitation plan if the child relocates.
Some state laws require parents seeking to relocate with their children to have a "good faith" reason. This may include moving to take a better job, be near family members who can help care for the children or to live somewhere more affordable. This helps ensure that parents aren't moving children to get back at their co-parent. They may also look at the reasons why a parent is objecting to the move, as well as how much of a role the other parent was playing in a child's life while he or she was living in close proximity.
The possibility of relocation is something that parents should consider in the custody and visitation negotiations during the divorce, no matter how remote the possibility may seem at the time. Whether you're dealing with the issue at that point or are facing it down the line, your family law attorney can provide advice based on the laws of your state.
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