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 interests 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.
Some states determine whether to allow a child custody relocation based on distance. For example, if the new location is within a certain distance ("100 miles or more"), 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 may prevent a move altogether.
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:
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 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 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.
Get a Free Child Custody Case Review
There are a number of reasons a parent may want to move with his or her child, but when there are child custody orders in place, the freedom to move can be hindered. 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. A great first step in the process is to contact a family law attorney near you for a free case review and to learn more about the child relocation custody laws in your state.