In days gone by, families generally stayed in the same geographic area for generations. In recent years, however, people have become progressively more mobile. Whether due to a job transfer, military orders, or just a change of pace, parents with physical custody of their children often need to move to a different part of their state or to an entirely new state. Many times this leaves parents with visitation rights far behind.
Before moving in with children subject to a child custody and visitation order, procedures set forth in child custody laws must be followed. If the proper steps are not followed and permission to move in with the children is not obtained, the moving parent may find themselves in the undesirable position of having to choose between moving out or relinquishing custody of the children.
To begin, the other parent and the family court must be notified of the proposed move. Generally, this notification must be in writing; and the intention of the relocating party must be made known well in advance of the move. Depending on the relationship between the parents, the moving parent may be able to negotiate and obtain the consent of the other parent. This, of course, will save you a lot of headaches and frustration and will prevent you from having to deal with the unknown. If the other parent does not agree to the relocation, a motion must be filed in family court to modify a child custody and visitation order to allow the relocation. This can take several weeks, even months to resolve.
Child custody and visitation issues are determined by what is best for the children. The Court will base its decision on relocation with children using this same standard. This may or may not be in sync with what is of interest to individual parents. The judges start from the premise that children’s best interests are served when they have a healthy and nurturing relationship with both parents. The family court judge may find that a relocation will put too much strain on that relationship. This factor alone may result in a denial of the relocation request with the children.
Other factors the court will consider include the distance of the proposed relocation and how that would affect visitation by the other parent. The judge may also consider how the move will affect the children with respect to relationships with other family and friends; how well the custodial parent has acted to foster a relationship with the other parent; health problems (such as asthma) and educational opportunities for children; and the reasons for the relocation. In addition, the court may also take into consideration the wishes of children if they are old enough to express an opinion.
In any case where you plan to move with your children, or if you are the noncustodial parent and have been notified of a proposed relocation, you should make an appointment to discuss the matter with a family attorney. An attorney specializing in child custody and relocation matters can help you negotiate a modification or develop your best case for you and the best interest of your children.