One of the most common situations in relocation cases happens when the custodial parent, who has physical custody of the child and shared legal custody, wants to relocate the child a distance from a former spouse, who has visitation rights and shared legal custody.
The resolution of this case – whether the custodial parent can move out of state with his or her child – depends on the laws of that jurisdiction and the particulars of the situation. Courts focus on the best interests of the child, which sets the gold standard in both relocation and custody cases. The dispute turns on the ball bearing of whether the state places the burden on the custodial or non-custodial parent to prove what would be in the child’s best interest.
Most jurisdictions allow the custodial parent to relocate the child as long as the move is in the child’s overall best interests. These beneficial interests include better schools, a better job with higher income for the relocating parent, or emotional benefits such as living close to other family members.
In the resolution of these disputes, the courts balance “the right of the custodial parent to move freely, the best interest of the child in the specific circumstances, and the right of the non-custodial parent to maintain a meaningful relationship with the child.”
This means the court considers whether the relocation improves the quality of life for both the relocating parent and the child and is not motivated by malice or bad faith. Generally speaking, when the court approves a relocation, the relocating parent must agree to modified visitation arrangements. This substitute visitation must foster “a continuing meaningful relationship between the child and the other parent as contemplated by the original parenting plan.”