Family Law Watch: Considerations Before Relocating Children In Divorce

What happens when a parent who shares custody of a child or children with an ex-spouse needs to relocate for a new job or a new relationship? Move-away motions in family court can be costly for parties and can lead to a long drawn-out battle in the court system. While courts consider an individual’s request to move children out of the state, it is usually a well thought-out decision, and it could take months, even years, before a final order is made to allow an individual to move with the children to another city, state or country.

What should a parent consider before a decision is made to move?

  1. Best Interests of the Children: The most important consideration is whether the decision to move is in the best interests of the children. If the ex-spouse has equal time with the children, it may not be easy to move the children away from their home state. A parent desiring to move away will want to consider whether the move may cause the children to be taken away from their existing support system (both family and friends). If the children are old enough to understand the decision to move, their preference may need to be considered before any major decisions are made.
  2. Creating A Plan: Prior to any relocation, a parent must have a plan in place. What school will the children attend and is the school up to par with the school the children have been attending? What support system is available for the children and will there be family members available to help care for the children? Has employment been secured by the relocating parent? These are the details the court will review before deciding whether to grant a relocation request.
  3. Communication With The Other Parent: If possible, parents should communicate with each other about the desire to move. Communicating with the other parent to develop an appropriate parenting plan/visitation schedule should a relocation occur may help avoid a costly legal battle. Open communication may reduce conflict between parents and may reassure the non-relocating parent that he/she can still be involved in the children’s lives despite the distance.

Ultimately, a relocation request should not be an impulsive decision but one that’s well thought-out and planned appropriately.