Frequently, a custodial parent will seek to relocate with the child after securing a new job or being transferred to a new geographic area by his or her employer. Courts often find that the prospect of increased economic advantages for the custodial parent as a result of these employment opportunities is enough to support a request for relocation.
The mother was allowed to relocate in In re S.E.P., 35 S.W.3d 862 (Mo. Ct. App. 2001), after being transferred by her employer. The mother received a promotion which required her to relocate to Florida. The mother was also informed by her employer that no such job opportunity would be available in her geographic area any time in the near future. Furthermore, after learning of the mother’s promotion, her new husband also obtained a new job in Florida. The Missouri Court of Appeals granted the wife’s request to relocate, finding that the move would be in the children’s best interests as they would benefit from the increased economic opportunities that the mother would enjoy in Florida.
In Dickson v. Dickson, 634 N.W.2d 76 (N.D. 2001), the mother was unable to obtain a teaching position in the counties surrounding her home in North Dakota. She found a teaching job in California at a higher salary than she would have received in North Dakota and made plans to relocate there. The North Dakota Supreme Court found that the mother was not required to exhaust all possible job opportunities in North Dakota before looking out of state. The court found that the economic advantages provided by the mother’s job, as well as various noneconomic factors, including the presence of the mother’s family in California, were sufficient to allow relocation.
Not every employment opportunity will be considered sufficient to allow relocation. In Tremain v. Tremain, 264 Neb. 328, 646 N.W.2d 661 (2002), the father petitioned to relocate to Oregon. The father had obtained a teaching position there that paid substantially more than he had been earning in Nebraska. The Nebraska Supreme Court found that the father’s job opportunity constituted a legitimate reason supporting his relocation request; however, the court found that this reason alone was not sufficient to permit relocation. "The only factor which weighs in Charles’ favor is the possibility of enhanced income, and this factor is not sufficient to carry the burden to establish that it is in the children’s best interests to be moved to Oregon." 646 N.W.2d at 666. The court denied the father’s relocation request, finding that it was not in the best interests of the children.
For other cases involving relocation requests premised on employment opportunities, see, e.g., Hass v. Hass, 74 Ark. App. 49, 44 S.W.3d 773 (2001) (custodial parent allowed to relocate after graduating from law school to pursue clerkship with federal judge); Botterbusch v. Botterbusch, 851 So. 2d 903, 905 (Fla. 4th Dist. Ct. App. 2003) (mother allowed to relocate intrastate where, in part, she would earn more income and work fewer hours at new job); Fohey v. Knickerbocker, 130 S.W.3d 730 (Mo. Ct. App. 2004) (custodial parent did not meet burden of proof to establish that relocation was in child’s best interests; even though mother obtained new, higher-paying job, she offered no evidence of how her increased salary would benefit child); and Miller v. Pipia, 297 A.D.2d 362, 746 N.Y.S.2d 729 (2002) (mother allowed to relocate to Florida in stipulation where she was not able to secure employment that would allow her to rent an apartment in New York as well as afford child care).
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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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