Child Custody Relocation Laws

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 effect on custody and visitation. When disputes like this come up, courts are often left to decide whether child custody relocation is in the best interests of the child and, if not, they can require the custodial parent to remain in the state.

Child custody relocation laws vary greatly among the states, especially when it comes to the requirements for relocating with a child, what notice must be provided, and whether there are any consent requirements. State laws also vary in what presumptions courts can apply in a case.

Express Consent

Many states only allow child custody relocation if there is an agreement in place that contains a provision expressly consenting to relocation and to 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) to the noncustodial parent of an intended move within a specified time period (for example, within 30, 60 or 90 days of an intended move). In addition to a notice requirement, some states require the noncustodial parent to either consent to allow the move, or to object by filing a motion seeking to prevent relocation.

Distance-Based Determinations

Some states determine whether to allow a child custody relocation based on distance. For example, if the new location is within a certain distance (for example, over 100 miles), even if within the same state, a court may factor that in its determination. Other states consider any move out of the state a significant factor, even if it's barely across state lines, and it may prevent a move altogether on this factor alone.

Additional Requirements: Good Faith Burden of Proof

In addition to looking to the best interests of a child, some states also require the relocating parent to provide a statement describing a "good faith" reason for the move, especially where it would disrupt the child's school schedule, or emotional and social stability. Good faith reasons for a move could include the opportunity to:

  1. Live in an area with a better cost of living;
  2. Live closer to family who can help with child care responsibilities;
  3. Start a new job (an actual offer, not "just looking"); or
  4. Continue 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 parent's 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 visitation schedule, including the times and places for visitation 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 that the non-relocating parent take physical custody of the child to maintain as much stability as possible.

In terms of increased travel costs, some states require a 50-50 split in increased fees, while other states may require the party who is moving to incur most of the transportation costs related to visitation. Again, because the laws vary greatly from state-state, it may be necessary to contact an experienced child custody attorney in your area who can help you learn more about the child custody laws in your state.

Learn More About Child Custody Relocation Laws from an Attorney

There are a number of reasons why you may want to move with your child, but when there are child custody orders in place, your freedom to relocate can be restricted. If you plan to relocate, but aren't sure how it will impact your child custody orders, now is the time to get legal advice. Contact a child custody attorney near you today to discuss your particular situation and learn more about the child custody relocation laws in your state.

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