Child Relocation Facts and Tips
Child Relocation Laws Vary
Child relocation laws and practices differ between states. Parents who already have full physical and legal custody of their children must meet the standard legal requirements if they seek to relocate. They must first notify the noncustodial parent if they wish to move or relocate to another state. Minor moves within the county that do not affect the other parent’s visitation do not pose problems. Long distance moves - those outside the county of jurisdiction – make visitation difficult.
Considerations for Relocation Vary
Courts consider several factors when deciding whether to allow a parent to relocate with a child, including the age and maturity of the child (the judge may consider the preference of the children), the distance between the new and old home (the court is usually more sympathetic to moves that make it possible for the noncustodial parent to exercise visitation), and the quality of life (the effect on the child’s education and leisure opportunity in a new location).
Longer Vacations May be an Option
Sometimes in relocation, the custodial parent agrees to give the child longer vacations with the non-relocating parent, in order to continue and possibly deepen the bond between the child and the non-relocating parent.
Presumptions in Favor of Relocation
In many states, such as Arkansas, the court favors allowing relocation of the custodial parent. In these states, the court reasons that the custodial parent has the right to relocate and is presumably making the best parenting decision. Thus, a burden is placed on the noncustodial parent to prove that the move is not in the best interests of the child.
The Best Interests of the Child Are Always Considered
A majority of states decide relocation requests based on the best interests of the child. The custodial parent must prove that the move is in the best interests of the child, in good faith, and for a legitimate reason. The court considers the child's relationship with the noncustodial parent and how the move affects that relationship, the child's relationship with his community and whether the child enjoys the same educational, spiritual and recreational activities in the new community, whether the custodial parent is likely to encourage a continued relationship with the noncustodial parent, the reasons for the move, plus any benefits the child receives from it.
A Middle Approach to Relocation Disputes
A few states, such as Connecticut, have a neutral approach. In these states the court does not have the burden of demonstrating why relocation should or should not be permitted. First, the custodial parent has the burden of showing that the move is legitimate and being made in good faith. The noncustodial parent then has the burden of showing that the move is not in the child's best interests.
Real Advantage Theory
In the 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 parent that does not adversely affect the best interests of the child, particularly when the mother is the sole custodial parent. 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.
Child Relocation Made in "Good Faith"
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 interests are not adversely affected, and 3) the other parent can maintain a relationship with the child after the move is made. In practice this means that the noncustodial parent in order to oppose relocation, must demonstrate that the move is not in good faith and not in the best interests of the child.
Relocation Usually an Issue Some Time After the Divorce
Many couples with children attempt to live in proximity at the onset of 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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CONSIDERATIONS VARY-- Courts consider several factors when deciding whether to allow a parent to relocate with a child, including the age and maturity of the child (the judge may consider the preference of the children); the distance between new and old home (the court is usually more sympathetic to moves that make it possible for the noncustodial parent to exercise visitation); and the quality of life (the effect on the child’s education and leisure opportunity in a new location).
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