Relocation with Children after Divorce

After divorce, custody arrangements can work well for the long term, especially when the ex-spouses live relatively close to one another. But complications arise when the custodial parent wants to move and the visitation commute would be much more difficult for the noncustodial parent. Relocation is a difficult situation that requires court approval.

Custody and Relocation Rules

The smoothest way for a custodial parent to relocate with children after divorce is for both parents to agree to the move. They must also agree to a new arrangement that still allows a fair shared custody arrangement. If they can agree, they will both sign a stipulation and consent agreement. The judge will decide if the move is in the child’s best interest, and if so, will use that agreement to create a new court order with an updated custody arrangement. More often than not, however, coming to a new agreement isn’t that simple.

If the noncustodial parent will not agree to the move or to the new custody and visitation arrangements, a mediator may be able to help the parents reach a resolution. Otherwise, the custodial parent will need to file a petition asking the court to approve the relocation.

Determining the Child’s Best Interest

There are factors in each state’s custody statute that help the court determine what is in a child’s best interest in an original custody agreement. If the custodial parent wants to move in the future, there are additional factors for the court to consider. These include:

  • The quality of schools at the new location,
  • Whether there are family members (on either parent’s side) near the new location,
  • Reasons why the parent wants to relocate,
  • The opportunity for the custodial parent to get a better job or make more money,
  • The ability of the noncustodial parent to still see the children after the move, and others.

The judge will weigh the potential benefits to the child against the downside of living farther away from the noncustodial parent.

It’s important to note that before the judge approves the new arrangement, both parents must continue to abide by the original agreement.

When the Noncustodial Parent Wants to Move

In most states, a noncustodial parent does not need court approval or an agreement with the custodial parent before relocating. Moving also does not translate to giving up visitation rights — as long as the parents can continue to follow the original custody agreement after the move.

However, if the noncustodial parent plans to move far enough away that the same visitation arrangement isn’t possible, he or she will need to facilitate a new plan. The noncustodial parent should try to work out a new visitation schedule with the custodial parent, including plans for transportation, communication, and related expenses. If both parties agree, they can then submit an agreement to the court. The judge will then evaluate the proposed new arrangement in terms of the child’s best interest. If the parents cannot agree on an updated plan, the noncustodial parent will need to file a motion asking the judge to change the order.

Getting Legal Assistance from a Family Law Firm

Relocation with children after divorce is a complex custody matter — whether you’re the custodial or noncustodial parent. You and your ex-spouse may be able to agree on new stipulations, but chances are, there will be some details to work out. Oftentimes, the situation involves disagreement. No matter how simple or contentious the conversation will be, it’s important to have legal counsel present to represent your goals.

At Petrelli Previtera, LLC, our experienced family law attorneys have helped hundreds of clients successfully navigate custody matters. If you’re thinking about moving, we welcome you to contact us for advice. We can explain what you can expect through the process and in dealing with the court. We’ll advocate for you and help you achieve the custody arrangement you’re hoping for.

Petrelli Previtera, LLC is one of the largest firms in the region that focuses exclusively on family law. Our firm is constantly in contact with our clients to ensure that all questions and concerns are addressed from the first meeting to the final outcome. Schedule a consultation online or in-person with one of our attorneys today.

Frequently Asked Questions About Relocation with Children

There is a lot to think about when moving — packing and unpacking, finding a new home, registering for a new school. For families with parents who are no longer together, there can be another consideration important not to overlook. Relocating even just over county lines when that move could impact custody time of the non-moving party, triggers a specific area of a state’s statute. It is important to know how to go about informing the other party of your move and in some cases how to ask court permission from the court.

Here are some frequently asked questions about relocation with children:

Can we avoid court?

While it is always a good idea to file your relocation request with the court to ensure your parenting plan and custody schedule is up-to-date, the legal aspects of the relocation process are always much easier when the parents can agree on the relocation and work together to reach a fair custody agreement.

While it is not always possible, if you can discuss the possibility and agree before you file any motions, it will speed the process along and help make the whole process much easier. If this is not possible — if the other parent does not agree with the need for relocation or wants to move the children too far away from you — then enlist the help of a lawyer.

What if I just leave and don’t follow the process?

The other parent will likely file an Emergency Custody Petition with the court seeking to have the child returned.  This unilateral decision can be held against you when the court does consider whether or not to grant your request to move.

How are the words “substantial impairment” defined from the definition of relocation?

There really is no exact definition. A good rule of thumb to consider would be if the move makes it impossible or difficult for the non-moving parent to see the child under the schedule you currently have or at all, you most likely need permission to move.

How long does it take to complete the court process?

This truly depends on the county where you reside and where you must file.  Some counties are able to get the parties in for a hearing sooner than others.  There is unfortunately no way to expedite the hearing process.  If you want to plan ahead for the start of a new school year, it is best to file sooner rather than later.

If you or someone you know is thinking about relocating and needs the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney, contact Petrelli Previtera, LLC today to schedule your initial consultation.

Further Reading