Settling a divorce and getting a custody and visitation schedule that works for everyone involved can be a difficult and long process. But once everything is settled and a routine is established, it’s very much worthwhile. When one parent decides to move and bring the children along, it can throw that carefully-crafted routine into custody relocation chaos.
Can your child’s other parent move with your child? What if that move means that you won’t be able to see your child as often as your custody or visitation arrangement allows for? Do you have any recourse? Take a look at what you need to know when your child’s other parent wants to move and take your child with them.
Can You Stop Your Child’s Other Parent from Moving?
Whether or not your child’s other parent can move away with your child depends on several factors. For one thing, it matters whether or not there’s already a custody agreement in place. In most cases, if you and the child’s other parent are legally divorced, you should have some type of court order that outlines the custody arrangement.
In some states, the court order will have language addressing what will happen if the parent who has primary or physical custody decides to move. Depending on the state, there may be a distance within which the parent can move without needing permission. For example, the parent may be able to move around within the state lines, or within 50 or 100 miles of where they currently live, any time they choose, even if it makes it more difficult for you to see your child. However, a move that’s outside of state lines or further away than the given distance would need to get court permission.
When Will Family Court Allow a Parent With Custody to Move?
If your state requires your child’s other parent to get permission from the family court to move, when will the court grant that permission? As with most other matters that are handled in family court, the answer depends on several factors and largely comes down to one overarching principle – what is in the best interests of the child?
It is possible for a court to decide that a move will be in the best interests of your child, even if the move has an impact on your relationship with the child. For example, will the move put the parent with custody in a better financial situation, improving their ability to provide for the child? Will the move put the parent with custody closer to extended family, like grandparents, aunts, and uncles who will be able to help the parent and provide care for the child? Does the child want to move? Is the parent initiating the move acting in good faith (that is, do they have a legitimate reason for wanting to make the move, and they’re not just moving to separate you from your child?) If the answers to some or all of these questions are yes, then it’s entirely possible that the court will allow the move.
On the other hand, there are times when the court won’t allow the parent to move with the child. If the child is doing well where they are, has a close relationship with both parents, is performing well in school, and is reluctant to move, then it’s possible that the court won’t allow it to happen, especially if there’s no reason to believe that the move will substantially improve the child’s quality of life. Or, for example, if the move seems likely to have more disadvantages for the child than advantages for the child, the court may disallow it.
For example, a parent who wants to quit their steady job and move to Hollywood to be an actor may be following their dream, but if they don’t seem to have a real plan that they’ve thought through, that type of move might be more detrimental than beneficial to the child. A parent who is moving to be with a new partner that they’ve only known for a short period of time may not be allowed to move with their child. A move that’s sudden and unexpected may be seen as questionable, especially if the parent can’t provide justification for child custody relocation.
In cases where the court decides not to allow the move, one of two things can happen. The parent who wants to move can stay and continue having custody of the child. Alternatively, the court may also change the custody arrangement, awarding custody to the other parent. In that case, the parent who had custody may then move, but not with the child.
Changing the Custody Order
If the parent who has custody is allowed to move, or if the parent is not allowed to move with the child but decides to move and custody is given to the remaining parent, changes will have to be made to the existing child custody order. No matter what the decision is on child custody relocation, the court will usually want to ensure that the child maintains their contact and relationship with both parents.
This may mean that a different type of visitation is called for. For example, if your child’s other parent is allowed to move with your child, and you previously had visitation every other weekend, the arrangement may change so that you have an extended visitation during the time that the school is closed for summer instead. The other parent may also be ordered to allow regular phone calls or Skype sessions between you and your child. The parent who is moving may be ordered to pay the transportation costs involved in getting your child to you for visitation, or you may be ordered to split the costs, depending on the circumstances and the financial situations of each parent.
If you’re a parent whose child may be moving with their other parent, it’s important for you to attend any court proceedings that are involved in determining whether your child can move. Depending on your state, you may have to file an objection in order to ask the court to consider not allowing the move, and if you don’t the court might automatically allow it. A legal resource group like National Family Solutions can give you the information you need about how child custody relocation is handled in your state and help you advocate for your parental rights in family court.