In today’s increasingly mobile society, people often relocate for a better job, a new relationship, educational opportunities, etc. However, when someone is divorced and has children, moving away is never simple. Even when both parents agree, such “move-away” situations involve tough decisions regarding the best way to maintain the child’s relationship with both parents. When parents do not agree, things can get much more emotionally — and legally — complicated.
When one parent wants to move away, either parent can bring a case to petition the court for orders (to prevent or allow the move away).
When a move away is at issue, the custody and visitation arrangements the parties have in place can play an important role. When it’s a parent with a permanent order for sole physical custody, the law presumes the parent has the right to relocate with the child. In such a case, the burden of proving the relocation would be harmful to the child is on the parent opposing the move. If the parents have joint physical custody, the burden is reversed and is up to the party seeking the move to prove to the court that relocation will benefit the child.
In every case, the court will base its determination on what it feels is in the “best interests of the child.” Although the provisions in the parties’ parenting plan are important, the court will usually rely more on the custody and visitation schedules actually in place at the time of the move. Additionally, the court will consider —
- The length of time the current custody order has been in place
- The stability of the child’s current environment
- The child’s age
- The nature of the child’s relationship with each parent
- The effect of the move on the ability of the parties to co-parent
- In some cases, where the child wishes to live
Move-away cases can be very complicated; no matter what your custodial status, you should never assume it guarantees a particular outcome. Also, you should be prepared for the likelihood that there will be a custody evaluation before a final determination is made, unless agreement can be reached.
If you wish to move with your child, or seek to prevent the relocation of your child, Christine McClane Tesi’s knowledge and experience with move-away cases can guide you through the process. Contact Ms. Tesi to discuss how the law applies to your specific circumstances and the best way to protect your rights. Call today to schedule a consultation or use our Contact page to email us.