Economic reasons relating to the remarriage of the custodial parent will also frequently justify a request to relocate. This situation typically occurs when a custodial parent’s new spouse obtains a better job out of state. In Tibor v. Tibor, 598 N.W.2d 480 (N.D. 1999), the mother’s new husband was offered a job in Georgia after he had lost his job and had no prospects of employment in North Dakota. The Supreme Court of North Dakota found that the financial advantages attendant to the new husband’s job in Georgia necessarily accrued to the mother’s children and should be considered in determining whether it was in the children’s best interests to permit relocation.
There is also a direct relationship between a stepparent’s financial situation and the circumstances of a spouse’s dependent children, because a stepparent is liable to support a spouse’s dependent children if he receives them into the family and for as long as they remain in the stepparent’s family. A stepparent naturally takes on a family relationship with children of a spouse and becomes part of the integrated family unit. When a stepparent’s career takes him or her out of state to secure a job, allowing the spouse and the spouse’s children to also relocate to that place is crucially important to maintaining family continuity and stability. Id. at 485. The court concluded that it was in the children’s best interests to allow the mother to relocate and that the father’s relationship with the children could be adequately preserved via a revised visitation schedule. See also McLaughlin v. McLaughlin, 264 Neb. 232, 647 N.W.2d 577 (2002) (mother’s new husband’s acceptance of out-of-state job with potential for advancement was a legitimate reason for mother’s proposed relocation even though husband had been offered employment in state that was not in his field; mother satisfied burden that it was in the children’s best interests to allow relocation).
However, a custodial spouse’s remarriage will not always serve as a basis to allow relocation. For example, in Sullivan v. Knick, 38 Va. App. 773, 568 S.E.2d 430 (2002), the mother sought permission to relocate to South Carolina with her new husband, who had obtained employment in that state. Evidence demonstrated that the new husband had ample employment opportunities in Virginia; however, he pursued employment in South Carolina in order to be closer to his child by a prior marriage. The father had been a committed parent even though he lacked custody, and expert testimony was presented that established that the reduction in his parenting time with the child would have an adverse effect on their relationship. The court concluded that the mother’s proposed relocation only reflected the interests of herself and her new husband and not those of the child. Holding that the few benefits that might accrue to the child were outweighed by the detrimental effect on the child’s relationship with the father, the court denied the mother’s request to relocate.
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PRESUMPTION IN FAVOR OF RELOCATION -- In many states, such as Arkansas, the court favors allowing relocation of the custodial parent. A majority of states, including New York, decide relocation requests based on the best interest of the child. A few states, such as Connecticut, have a neutral approach, a middle ground approach. Both the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent have the burden of demonstrating why relocation should or should not be permitted.
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