At some point after a divorce and while their children are still minors, many parents face the issue of relocation. If you’re the custodial parent, you can’t just pack up and move when a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity comes along in another state, or you need to help care for an aging parent who lives thousands of miles away. Your co-parent (assuming that they have parental rights) needs to approve that move. If they don’t, a court will.
The court has a duty to look after the best interests of your children. If you’re seeking court approval to relocate with them, you’ll have to show that you have a “good faith” reason to do so. Examples of good faith reasons to relocate include:
- Taking a new job that’s already been offered (not just moving and then planning to look for a job)
- Moving to an area with a lower cost of living
- Being close to extended family who will help care for your children
- Seeking a degree or otherwise continuing your education
A court will also want to ensure that you aren’t moving for a “bad faith” reason. Essentially, this involves moving children away from the other parent solely to get back at that parent.
If you’re on the other side of the equation, and your co-parent wants to relocate with the children against your wishes, you’ll have some burden of proof as well. For example, if you currently have little contact with your kids despite their proximity, a judge may not see any reason to prevent your co-parent from relocating with them.
Whenever one parent relocates, whether they have primary custody of the kids or not, the custody and visitation schedule will likely need to be modified. Kids may spend extended vacations with the noncustodial parent rather than weekends, for example. Parents may also have to work out travel details.
Whether you or your co-parent is seeking to relocate, it’s essential to have legal guidance. Even if you agree that the move is the best thing for the kids, you still want to carefully craft your custody and visitation modifications to avoid conflict and confusion as you settle into this new parenting dynamic.