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Trading places: relocating with children after a divorce

Mobility, the freedom to just pull up stakes and hit the road for somewhere else has been a longstanding feature of American life. For divorced Tennessee parents who have custody of minor children however, the freedom to move is limited and often requires court approval.

When is a Tennessee court’s approval required for custodial parent relocation? In short, it’s required in any case where the parent with primary custody plans to move out of state (which happens frequently in the Nashville area where much of our practice is based) or more than 100 miles away from the non-custodial parent (but within Tennessee).

What steps do you have to follow? First, due to the complicated legal requirements that are easy to run afoul of, the best first step is to contact an attorney. Second (unless a divorce settlement specifically addresses the issue of relocation) you must file a petition asking a court for permission to relocate (often with the court that finalized the divorce but not always) and must also notify the non-custodial parent of the intent to relocate at least 60 days before the moving date.

While the particulars may vary from case to case and jurisdiction to jurisdiction, a petition should generally include the specific reason or reasons you are seeking the relocation. It is also a good idea to address how the move will impact the non-custodial parent’s rights and propose a way to make up for that. (Courts often deny relocation petitions for this reason alone.)

The third (and probably most important) issue to address in a custodial parent relocation petition is why the proposed move will be in best interests of the children. This is critical because family courts are required to apply the “best interests” standard in family law matters that involve children and issue rulings based on their determinations.

Source: Huffington Post, “How Do I Relocate After Obtaining Custody of My Children?,” Eyal Talassazan, July 2, 2012


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