Child Relocation Leaves Father Behind

Very often when a custodial mother announces her plans to relocate beyond an easy visitation distance (100 miles or less), the noncustodial father raises the cry, “What about a father’s rights?” Truth be told, the relocation of a child often creates parental drift and causes the noncustodial father to move out of the life of his child. Child relocation has also incubated a movement known as “fathers’ rights” because men, when they are cut off from their children, often come to believe they are victims of divorce.

In general courts permit a custodial parent to relocate if 1) the move is being done in good faith; 2) the child’s best interest is not adversely affected, and 3) the noncustodial parent can maintain a relationship with the child after the move. In practice, in order to oppose relocation, the noncustodial parent must demonstrate that the move is not in good faith and not in the best interest of the child.

The noncustodial father cannot oppose the relocation just because he does not like the idea. In approving a relocation, the courts balance the custodial parent’s constitutional right to travel against the state’s responsibility to protect the child. Courts will approve a good faith move   that does not adversely affect the best interest of the child because judges apply the logic of what is called the “real advantage” theory. This theory holds that a move that is good for the parent is good for the child, for example, when a move is in conjunction with a career change or a new marriage.

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