When a custodial parent relocates with a child, it can potentially wreak havoc on an already challenging child custody situation — often forcing a child to have a long distance relationship with their own parent.
Absent an agreement between the parties, a relocation dispute may arise if the noncustodial parent objects to the intended move based on its potential affect on custody and visitation. As such, courts are often left to decide whether child custody relocation is contrary or in the best interest of the child, and may otherwise require the custodial parent to remain in the state.
The laws vary greatly among the states concerning child custody relocation. State laws often spell out requirements for relocating with a child, including rules concerning notice, consent, and presumptions, as follows:
Many states allow child custody relocation provided there is an agreement in place that contains an express consent to relocate and a proposed visitation schedule. This typically takes place during the original child custody proceedings and is usually contained within a clause in the child custody plan.
Notice and Consent
Some states require a custodial parent to give notice, (usually written), of an intended move to the noncustodial parent within a certain time period specified in the statute, (for example, ’30’ ’60’ or ’90’ days of the intended move”). In addition to a notice requirement, some states require consent of the noncustodial parent to allow the move, or object by filing a motion seeking to prevent relocation.
Good Faith Burden of Proof
Still, some states require more detail, such as a statement describing a “good faith” reason for the move, especially if moving the child would disrupt the child’s school, emotional, and social stability. Good faith reasons may include: (1) better cost of living, (2) wanting to be closer to one’s family to help with child care responsibilities, (3) new job (actual offer, not “just looking”), and (4) continuing one’s education.
Conversely, a court may object to a move based on “bad faith” reasons, such as wanting to move far away from an ex-spouse in revenge or retaliation.
Some states may also consider the noncustodial parents reasons for objecting to child custody relocation. For example, if an objecting parent is one who did not regularly exercise his or her visitation rights, or who was otherwise an “absent parent”, a court may likely find in the custodial parent’s favor and allow the move.
Visitation Schedule, Travel Costs, and Modification of Child Custody
In almost all states, the relocating parent is required to make a proposed parenting plan, including the times and places for parenting time with the noncustodial parent in the new location. Often this includes extended access times during major holidays, spring breaks, and summer months.
In addition, because child custody relocation may invoke a substantial change in circumstances, the parties may also need to seek a court modification of custody or visitation order. In certain circumstances, such as joint custody situations, a court may need to reassess child custody between the parties altogether and suggest the non-relocating parent take physical custody of the child to maintain as much stability as possible.
In terms of increased travel costs, under some circumstances a 50-50 split in increased fees will be ordered, while other courts may require the party who is moving to incur most of the transportation costs related to visitation.
The issue of relocation can be complicated and parents facing a relocation issue should seek a qualified family law attorney immediately upon the decision to relocate or receiving notice that the other parent intents to relocate.