Child Custody Relocation Laws

Child custody situations can be difficult. When a custodial parent (the parent with whom the child lives) moves away with a child, this can cause more hardship. This often makes co-parenting difficult. It also forces a child to have a long-distance relationship with their other parent. This can significantly affect the parent's relationship with the child.

But, relocation is sometimes unavoidable. Sometimes, moving away is in the best interests of the child. This article answers some of our most frequently asked questions about relocation cases.

Learn about the child custody rights of each parent when it comes to relocating below.

Can I Move Out of State With My Kids After a Divorce?

It depends. If you have legitimate reasons to move, you must ask a judge for permission to move your child out of state. The judge will consider many factors to decide whether to allow you to take your child out of state. But, if you ignore the court order and move your child without getting the family court's consent, you will face significant consequences. You could even lose some of your parental rights in your custody arrangement.

Is Relocation in the Best Interests of the Child?

When disputes like this come up, courts decide whether child custody relocation is in the best interests of the child. The court will look at various factors to make this determination in the custody case. For example, the family court will consider the child's wishes (if the child is old enough), the child's relationship with the non-relocating parent, and the reason for the proposed relocation request.

The court might look at the location of, and relationship with, the child's extended family (such as grandparents) and the child's quality of life if they moved away from these family members. The court will also look for any child abuse or domestic violence history.

If the court finds moving away is not in the best interests of the child, they can require the custodial parent to remain in the state. Or, the court may transfer custody to the non-custodial parent if the custodial parent does move away.

What Are the Laws Around Child Custody Relocation?

Child custody relocation laws vary significantly among the states, especially when it comes to the following:

  • Requirements for relocating with a minor child
  • What written notice must be provided
  • Whether there are any consent requirements from the non-moving parent

State laws also vary about what presumptions courts can apply in a case. For this reason, it is a great idea to consider talking to a child custody lawyer about your case.

What if the Non-Relocating Parent Gives Express Consent in the Child Custody Agreement To Move?

Many states only allow child custody relocation if a custody agreement contains a provision allowing relocation and a proposed visitation schedule. This typically occurs during the original child custody hearings and is usually contained within a clause in the child custody plan. Other states have statutes that address the requirements for relocation.

What Are the Notice and Consent Requirements for Relocation?

Some states require a custodial parent to give written notice to the non-custodial parent. They must give this notice within a specified time. Notice is usually required within 30, 60, or 90 days before the move. In addition to a notice requirement, some states require the non-custodial parent to either consent or object by filing a motion to prevent relocation.

What Are Distance-Based Custody Decisions?

Some states allow child custody relocation based on distance. For example, if the new location is a certain distance away (for example, over 100 miles), the court may deny relocation even if within the same state. Other states may consider any move out of the state a significant factor, even if it's barely across state lines.

How Do I Prove the Good Faith Burden of Proof?

Some states also require the relocating parent to provide a statement describing a "good faith" reason for the move and explain how that reason justifies the inherent disruption to the child's school schedule and emotional and social stability. Good faith reasons for a move could include the opportunity to:

  • Live in an area with a better cost of living
  • Live closer to family who can help with childcare responsibilities
  • Start a new job or get a better job
  • Continue one's education

On the other hand, the 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 non-custodial parent's reasons for objecting to child custody relocation. For example, a court may likely find in the custodial parent's favor and allow the move if the objecting parent:

  • Did not regularly exercise their visitation rights
  • Was otherwise an absent parent
  • Has a history of child abuse or domestic violence

What are the Requirements for the Relocating Parent?

In almost all states, the relocating parent must do the following:

  • Propose a visitation schedule, including the times and places for visitation with the non-custodial parent in the new location. The proposed schedule may include access to the child during major holidays and spring break and extended visitation during the summer months.
  • Seek a court modification of the custody or visitation order (if there will be a substantial change to the existing order)

Some states require a 50-50 split in increased travel costs. Other states may require the moving party to pay most of the transportation costs related to visitation. The court may impose those costs on the non-custodial parent if they are not current on child support payments.

Because the laws vary greatly from state to state, it may be necessary to contact an experienced family law attorney in your area who can help you learn more about the child custody laws in your state.

Can I Move Out of State During a Divorce Proceeding?

Maybe. The courts make decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child. That usually means having both parents live in the same state with shared parenting time (joint custody) and avoiding unnecessary disruption in the child's life. This helps ensure the child's relationship with both parents remains solid.

But, if you can show the move from your home state is in the child's best interests, the court may allow it. But, you generally have to file a motion with the court and get approval before moving with your child. It's also important to note that custody is decided in the state where your divorce was filed.

Does Moving Out of the Home Without My Children Hurt My Custody Case?

Because of the importance of stability to children, a judge may be more inclined to grant physical custody to the parent residing in the home. This may help minimize the disruption in the children's lives. The other parent may still keep legal custody of the child. This means they can also make major decisions about the minor child's life.

If you move out of state and take the children with you, you must go to court as soon as possible. This is to make sure it doesn't look like you're attempting to take the children away unlawfully or deny the other parent visitation with the children. It is best to get an order establishing custody and a visitation schedule quickly.

If you don't request a court order immediately, the other parent may ask the judge to take the children away from you as you took them without court authorization. You may lose your custody rights as a result.

Learn More About Child Custody Relocation Laws from an Attorney

You may want to move with your child for several reasons, but when there are child custody orders in place, your freedom to relocate can be restricted. If you plan to move, now is the time to get legal advice. Learn more about the child custody relocation laws in your state.

Contact a child custody attorney near you today to discuss your situation.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Both parents can seek custody of their children — with or without an attorney
  • An attorney can help get the custody and visitation agreement you want
  • An attorney will advocate for your rights as a parent

A lawyer can help protect your rights and your children's best interests. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

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Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Once new child custody arrangements are in place, it’s an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries to your will and name a guardian for any minor children. Consider creating a financial power of attorney so your agent can pay bills and provide for your children. A health care directive explains your health care decisions and takes the decision-making burden off your children when they become adults.

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