Child Relocation

Child relocation and child abduction are two frequent problems associated with child custody.

Modern American life, with its abundant opportunities for fresh starts in a new place, means that minor children of a failed marriage often move.

Relocation of a child makes custody volatile, particularly when a child is removed a great distance. Relocation often seems a preliminary to the noncustodial parent, usually the father, drifting away from the life of his child. It has also incubated a movement known as "fathers' rights" because men often come to believe they are victims when they are cut off from their children.

In the contested relocation of a child, courts balance the custodial parent's constitutional right to travel against the state's responsibility to protect the child. Most courts approve a good faith move by a custodial mother that does not adversely affect the best interest of the child. In this, the courts apply the logic of what is called the "real advantage" theory, which holds that a move that is good for the parent is good for the child, for example, when it is in conjunction with a career move or a new marriage.

In general, courts permit the custodial parent to relocate with the child if 1) the relocation is being done in good faith; 2) the child's best interest is not adversely affected, and 3) the other 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. This can be very difficult.

Many couples with children attempt to live in proximity after their divorce, so the issue of relocation -- generally defined as more than an excursion distance, or 100 miles -- comes up after the parents have been divorced for some time.



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