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Child Custody Relocation Laws

Child Custody and Relocation

When a custodial parent (the parent with whom the child lives) relocates with a child, it can cause additional hardship on an already challenging child custody situation. This often makes co-parenting difficult. It also forces a child to have a long-distance relationship with their own parent.

If the custodial parent relocates, a relocation dispute can arise since it may affect custody rights and visitation. This usually happens if there is no agreement between the parties.

Can You Move Out of State After a Divorce With Kids?

It depends. If you have legitimate reasons to move you will have to ask a judge for permission to move your child out of state. The judge will consider many factors and 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 court's consent, you will face significant consequences.

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. If not, they can require the custodial parent to remain in the state or transfer custody to the other parent if they do relocate.

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

  • Requirements for relocating with a child
  • What notice must be provided
  • Whether there are any consent requirements

State laws also vary about what presumptions courts can apply in a case.

Express Consent in the Child Custody Agreement

Many states only allow child custody relocation if there is a custody agreement in place that contains a provision allowing relocation and a proposed visitation schedule. This typically takes place 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.

Notice and Consent for Relocation

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, 30, 60, or 90 days in advance of an intended move).

In addition to a notice requirement, some states also require the noncustodial parent to either consent or object by filing a motion seeking to prevent relocation.

Distance-Based Custody Decisions

Some states allow a 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.

Additional Requirements: 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 child care 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 noncustodial 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

Visitation Schedule, Travel Costs, and Modification of Child Custody

In almost all states, the relocating parent is required to do the following:

  • Propose a visitation schedule, including the times and places for visitation with the noncustodial parent in the new location. This may include access times during major holidays, spring breaks, 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).

In terms of increased travel costs, some states require a 50-50 split in increased fees. Other states may require the party who is moving to incur most of the transportation costs related to visitation, or 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 You 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 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 within the child's best interests, the court may allow it. However, 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 will be decided in the state where your divorce was filed (and where your child lived in the six months prior to divorce), regardless of where you and the child will live.

Learn More About Child Custody Relocation Laws from an Attorney

There are several 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 now is the time to get legal advice. Contact a child custody attorney near you today to discuss your situation and learn more about the child custody relocation laws in your state.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Contact a qualified child custody attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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