A common concern divorced parents have is how a move will affect a child custody agreement. The nature of the agreement can have a strong impact on the legality of relocating the child. A judge may have to approve a move across state lines, and any move of considerable distance often requires amending the custody agreement in some way. As with the original creation of the agreement, the best interests of the child are always at the heart of any relocation conflict.
Is Relocating a Violation of the Custody Agreement?
The legality of moving a child is determined by the nature and strictness of the custody agreement. If the original agreement is flexible, then the parents may be able to come to a new agreement with little court intervention. If there is court ordered visitation, however, then a custodial parent will probably have to get the judge’s permission before attempting any relocation of the child even if the other parent agrees.
How is a Relocation Dispute Decided?
At the heart of the decision is the child’s continued access to both parents after the move. If a proposed relocation, such as a move across town or to a nearby city, will present little change in visitation circumstances, then it is unlikely to be an issue. A move greater than 100 miles usually results in what the court deems a long-distance relationship. Frequent visitation may be changed to a longer term but less frequency. This could mean, for example, changing from every other weekend to three weeks in the summer.
When one parent objects to a relocation, the court will take a close look at the reasoning each parent has. The relocating parent may need to show a good faith reason for the relocation. This can include getting a new job, continuing education or financial reasons. The court may also examine the objecting parent’s history in order to judge the impact of the move. If the non-custodial parent did not frequently exercise their visitation rights, then they have less legal grounds than a parent who frequently saw the child and can show that a move would be detrimental to the relationship.
The outcome of a relocation dispute can have a serious impact on the custody arrangement up to and including a total change of custody or the revocation of joint custody. Dealing with an objection can result in legal fees to both parents. If a non-custodial parent believes that a relocation will seriously undermine their relationship with the child or violate their rights under the custody agreement, then they should consult an attorney. To speak with an experienced divorce attorney call 973-324-9711 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.