How Relocating Might Affect Child Custody

Child custody is already a contentious issue in a divorce. When one parent wants to move, it can create many more problems. Although child custody relocation laws vary by state, there are some general principles that can help you get a better understanding of your requirements.

If You Are Not the Custodial Parent  

Moving when you aren’t the custodial parent will likely be easier on you than if you have the kids. The thing that you may have to work through is a new visitation agreement. Ideally, you would talk to the custodial parent about spring breaks, holidays, and vacations to see your children on a regular basis. However, you may need to seek a court modification under certain circumstances. Often, a lawyer can help you negotiate an agreement with less stress than if you tried to do it on your own.

If You Are the Custodial Parent and Want to Move

How you proceed will depend on a few factors. First, you will need to look at your custody agreement to find out what provisions apply. You may need the express consent of the other parent to relocate. Alternatively, you may simply need to provide written notice to the noncustodial parent. The state dictates how the other parent can proceed. The noncustodial parent may need to consent to allow the move or may not even need to respond unless they wish to object.

In some places, the relocation may depend on distance. If it’s under a certain distance or within the same state, you may not need to petition the noncustodial parent or the court. In some cases, if you move even a few miles across a state line, it may completely prevent the move from happening.

Boost Your Case

If you do have to relocate, you should be prepared to explain to the court that there is a “good faith” reason to do so. Examples include:

  • To live in a better area with a better school district or cost of living.
  • To live closer to family who will be helping you with responsibilities.
  • To start a new job that pays better or offers better benefits, but wait until you have an actual offer.
  • To continue your education.

Relocating out of revenge may make the court deny your move. Of course, the judge should take into consideration whether the noncustodial parent is part of the child’s life. An absent parent who objects may not be taken as seriously as a parent who always uses visitation time.

Talk to a child custody attorney, about relocation to make sure that you follow proper procedures.