The Rules for Relocating with a Child after Divorce
Regardless of the circumstances, moving to a new place is usually a decision that is made after a lot of thought and consideration. However, when a parent decides to move, the process becomes much more involved as new issues enter the discussion. Things such as school quality, the availability of childcare, and the amount of activities in a given area are all matters parents think about if moving is in their future. Divorced parents have the additional consideration of how the move will affect the time-sharing agreement and the relationship of the child with the parent staying behind. Certainly, staying close to both parents is ideal for the child, and the law favors this arrangement. As a consequence, parents with shared time-sharing wishing to move considerable distances must receive the other parent’s consent or court approval prior to the move, or face potentially serious legal consequences, including kidnapping charges. An overview of when the law on parent relocation is triggered, as well as how courts decide these cases, will follow below.
When Does a Move Trigger the Statute?
A parent will only need to seek the approval of the other parent or the court if the new residence is 50 or more miles away from the child’s principal residence as of the last time the court considered time-sharing matters. Further, the move must be for more than 60 days, and not relate to temporary relocations for vacation, education or medical care for the child.
Relocation by Agreement
The easiest and least costly way to facilitate a relocation is for the parents to agree. In addition to the move itself, the agreement would need to address a revised time-sharing schedule and the allocation of increased expenses associated with transporting the child between the parents. The agreement must be in writing and contain the following provisions:
- consent to the relocation;
- time-sharing schedule changes for the non-relocating parent; and
- if necessary, the transportation arrangements under the new time-sharing schedule.
If there is an existing parenting plan or other time-sharing order, the parents must file the agreement with the court, which will be accepted without a hearing, unless requested in writing by a party within 10 days of the filing.
If the parents cannot agree, the party wishing to move will need to file a petition with the court requesting permission to do so. The petition must include why the parent is seeking to relocate and a revised time-sharing schedule, as well as transportation logistics. The petition must be served on the other parent so he/she has notice of the impending move, and he/she has 20 days to challenge the request. If the other parent fails to contest the move within this period, it will be presumed to be in the best interests of the child and will be allowed. If the relocation is challenged, the court will look at the following factors as it makes its decision:
- the nature and equality of the child’s relationship with each parent;
- the child’s current age and level of development, and the likely impact of the move on the child’s future development;
- the plausibility of preserving the child’s relationship with the non-locating parent and the likelihood the relocating parent will comply with the revised time-sharing arrangement;
- whether the relocation will improve the quality of life for the child and the relocating parent;
- the reasons for requesting and challenging the relocation;
- whether the relocation is necessary to improve the financial situation of the relocating parent; and
- if the relocation is requested in good faith and is unrelated to the failure of the non-relocating parent to pay child or spousal support obligations.
Get the Advice of a Family Law Attorney
If you have questions about your child moving or any other concerns related to time-sharing matters, talk to a family law attorney to learn about your legal options. Parents cannot make unilateral decisions that affect the other parent’s access to a child. Attorney Joyce A. Julian, P.A. understands how important time-sharing issues are, and will work to get the best possible results for your family. Contact the office for a free consultation.