Child Custody, Visitation & Relocation

Relocating With Children After Divorce

People move or relocate all the time and for all sorts of reasons. A new job may take you to a new city, state or even a new country. Maybe you want to change of scenery, or perhaps to move back to the childhood neighborhood you left years ago. Whatever the reason, moves aren’t a problem for many people, other than the actual hassle of the physical move.

For divorced or separated parents, things are sometimes a bit more complicated. Your move may have a big impact on your child custody or visitation rights. In fact, a court may even stop you from moving at all.

Travel Restrictions

You may not realize it, but the fate of your move may already be sealed, long before you pack the first box or even mention the move to your ex-spouse.

Check the Paperwork First

Check your divorce or child custody decree for any travel restriction on either parent’s ability to move the child beyond a specified geographical limit. Travel restrictions are common, and they’re usually worked out between the parents during the divorce.

Check the Laws in Your State

In some states, the law sets geographical travel restrictions on the parents’ ability to move or relocate with the child. The laws vary from state to state, but usually the custodial parent must give the noncustodial parent formal written notice of the intention to move. It’s then up to the noncustodial parent to file an objection with the court, which kicks off a court battle.

In other states, the custodial parent must file a petition with the court asking for the court’s permission to relocate.

In states where there are no travel restrictions of any sort, the courts usually allow the move.

Consequences for Both Parents

As the custodial parent, you need to be aware of travel restrictions. You must get court approval before you relocate with the child if there’s a restriction, whether it’s in your divorce papers or state laws. You risk being held in contempt of court- and that means jail time, a fine or both- if you move the child without court approval.

As the noncustodial parent, you may lose the chance to have a long-term relationship with your child, so you need to consider filing:

An objection with the court to block the move if there’s a travel restriction in your divorce papers or state laws, and

A petition to modify child custody on the ground that a change in custody is the only way you can keep a relationship with your child.

How the Court Decides

It’s not unusual for the courts to get involved in custody disputes when the custodial parent wants to move with the child. In some states, the court presumes the custodial parent’s move is allowed, unless the noncustodial parent comes up with strong evidence that the child would be more harmed than helped by the move.

In other states, the custodial parent has to prove the relocation is in the best interest of the child.

It is important to remember that a court has the power to block or stop the relocation if it believes the relocation would be harmful to the child.

Reference: Relocating With Children After Divorce

Filed Under: Family Law

Contact our Philadelphia Family Law Firm with your questions, comments or concerns.

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