Custodial Parent’s Reasons for Relocation
Possibly the most important of the relocation factors is the custodial parent’s reason(s) for the proposed relocation. As discussed in Part II(B), several jurisdictions require the prima facie showing of a legitimate or good-faith reason for the proposed relocation before the best interests of the child will be considered. Even jurisdictions that do not require such a showing generally consider the motives of the parents underlying the relocation as factors in determining the best interests of the child. While it would be impossible to catalog all possible reasons, there are several that arise with great frequency in relocation cases. A representative list of what constitutes a legitimate or good-faith reason for relocation is set forth in Dupre v. Dupre, 2004 WL 1698336 (R.I. 2004).
Id. at *14 (quoting Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution, A.L.I. ch. 2, 2.17(4)(a)(ii) (LexisNexis 2002)); see also W. Va. Code 48-9-403(d)(1) (2004) (adopting A.L.I. principles).
These reasons can be divided into two categories economic and personal. Legitimate economic reasons arise when a proposed relocation conveys a financial benefit on, or causes the economic improvement of, the custodial parent and include employment and educational opportunities as well as the opportunities of the custodial parent’s new spouse. Legitimate personal reasons, on the other hand, convey no direct financial benefit but, instead, increase the custodial parent’s quality of life or emotional well-being. These benefits include the advantages of relocating near family and moves designed to facilitate remarriage. Generally, courts are more swayed by economic reasons, finding that improvements in the custodial parent’s economic circumstances tend to more directly accrue to the child than any increase in the custodial parent’s well-being for personal reasons.
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REAL ADVANTAGE THEORY -- 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. The defense for the estranged parent would be to prove to the court the move is more detrimental to the child's future than any advantage gained by the custodial parent.
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