Non-custodial parents often feel they lack empowerment and do not understand that there are situations where they can assert their rights. One area of this helplessness is relocation, since it may seem as though custodial parents can live anywhere, and take the child or children with them.
However, that is not true. There is a process to relocation that goes beyond just picking up and moving.
This overview of relocation describes the legal process involved in a custodial parent's move. If you are facing a relocation issue or considering a move with a child, reviewing this list before seeing a family law attorney will help you know what to expect.
Procedure: Notice and Consent
Each state requires the relocating parent to file a petition if the move involves a certain distance. Orders regarding child custody may make moves within a 50 to 100 mile radius permissible without court process, but anything beyond that requires notice and legal filings. Each relocation petition must also include a proposed new parenting plan and other details, such as how costs of travel will be divided in out-of-state moves, to show good faith cooperation.
The other parent can dispute this petition by claiming bad faith or a failure to meet the child's best interest, as that is the court's primary focus. A move to better schools, more family, and a better atmosphere is more likely to be upheld than one to an area with no support system, for example.
The best interest of the child is reviewed on a case-by-case basis considering the attributes of the current home as compared to the proposed one. Factors considered by the court may include:
Distance from the other parent. A cross-country move has a higher burden of proof for the child's best interest than one that is to the next town. This is especially true if the child's relationship with the non-custodial parent is good.
Good Faith. Good faith reasons for moving may include improved cost of living, more family connections, a new job (not just looking), and educational opportunities for parent and child. Bad faith reasons include revenge, retaliation, or just not wanting to deal with the other parent.
Relationship with Each Parent. A non-custodial parent who never uses visitation time is less likely to be taken seriously when disputing a relocation petition. If the child has a strong bond with both parents, then the court needs to be satisfied that the new parenting plan preserves that relationship.
It should be noted that most relocation petitions are granted as very few want to make this effort for petty reasons. However, it is possible to find an agreement on relocation matters that does not sacrifice the child's relationship with the non-custodial party.
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