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Custodial Parents and Relocation: Not As Easy As Get Up And Go

November 12, 2012

Many parents are under the misunderstanding that if they are the custodial parent of a child they can relocate at will and merely have to file documentation alerting the court and other parent of their decision. This is entirely incorrect.

A custodial parent cannot relocate with a minor child without written consent from the other parent or a court order. Even in situations where the custodial parent has sole legal custody of the child, he or she must petition a court of competent jurisdiction prior to relocating with the child. The custodial parent should file a petition as soon as possible, as it may take months to schedule a trial date and the Court will be very reluctant to allow the parent to move on a temporary basis in the meantime. In the event a custodial parent relocates without written consent or court order, the other parent may file a motion for the immediate return of the child (with or without the custodial parent).

When determining whether to grant permission to relocate, the factors the Court will consider include, but are not limited to: (1) the impact of the move on the relationship and future contact between the child and the noncustodial parent; (2) the quality of the relationship between the child and the custodial parent as well as the quality of the relationship between the child and the noncustodial parent; (3) the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the noncustodial parent and the child through suitable visitation arrangements; (4) each parent’s reason for seeking or opposing the move; (5) the degree to which the custodial parent’s life and the child’s life may be enhanced economically, emotionally and educationally by the move; (6) the preference of the child; and (7) the availability and feasibility of a change in custody if the relocation is undesirable. The Court will also consider any other relevant facts and circumstances with an emphasis on what outcome is in the best interest of the child.

In general, relocation cases can be very difficult, especially if it is a distant move. It is important to be able to demonstrate why the relocation is necessary and all of the reasons why you believe the relocation would be in the best interest of your child.