Divorce:

Parental Relocation

States are divided with regard to the right of a parent to move out of state with a child. Almost all used to allow the move without qualification, however, recently, there has been a movement to put some restrictions on this right. The basis of this is the desire of the state to preserve, to some extent, the relationship of the non-custodial parent and the child. Consequently, some states are hesitant to allow the custodial parent to move, if the non-custodial parent has a strong objection, unless there is some very pressing reason to do so. The restriction typically involves requiring the permission of the non-custodial parent or the permission of the court. They may require that notice be giving before the proposed move.

This area of the law is currently in flux in many states. Regardless of individual differences, there are some issues that all states consider in cases where the custodial parent wishes to move. They include:

The reason for the move- A good reason for moving is a strong foundation for the custodial parent’s argument. Some basic good reasons include:

  • Getting a better job
  • Moving due to remarriage
  • Moving to be to extended family

In the case of the new job, the move should not be based upon a vague hope for better employment, but rather upon an actual specific job that the custodial parent will be taking. If, however, the court deems that the primary reason for the move is to reduce or eliminate contact between the child and the non-custodial parent, it is highly unlikely that the request will be granted, as this is a “bad faith” reason for moving.

Objection of the non-custodial parent- A good reason or opposing the moving of the child is a strong foundation for the argument of the non-custodial parent. The primary good reasons is the diminishment or elimination of the child’s close relationship with the non-custodial parent. However, if the non-custodial parent are not particularly close (often evidenced in the failure of the non-custodial parent to exercise visitation rights), the move is more likely to be permitted.

The child’s benefits- Another factor which would increase the likelihood of the court permitting the move would be if the child stood to benefit from it. Examples include a better school, less dangerous neighborhood, or, if the child is ill, a climate more conducive to his or her health. If the benefit of the child is to be factored into the court’s decision, the custodial parent will need to demonstrate it concretely with facts and witnesses.

The extent to which the relationship of non-custodial parent and child can be preserved- Another factor which would make the court more likely to permit the move is if, though some reasonable restructuring of visitation, the relationship of non-custodial parent and child can remain intact. This may involve increasing visitation during the summer, or during holidays. This could conceivably lead to the non-custodial parent and child spending even more time together than they had under the original agreement, even if the time together does not occur as regularly. However, the court may consider the regularity of contact an important factor, making the move less likely. Another factor is the cost of visiting. If the cost of visiting the child is prohibitive for the non-custodial parent, the court would be less likely to allow the move. If the cost of visiting is affordable, be expensive, the court could reduce child support in order to make visits easier.

In the event that the parents have joint custody and both spend significant amounts of time with the child, the request may be treated similarly to an original custody dispute. That is, the court will focus on determining which parent can best provide for the needs of the child. All the factors already discussed will be considered, as well as the child’s attitude and relationship with his or her current home, school, friends, and community.