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Child Custody Move-Away Issues

When a custodial parent in a child custody proceeding requests a move-away order from the court allowing him/her to move a significant distance that would interfere with the noncustodial parent's visitation and his/her contact with the children, this is commonly referred to as a move-away case. A move-away case is one of the most difficult cases for the family courts to hear, because the request by the custodial parent to move away with his/her children often has a negative impact on the frequent and continuous contact the children will have with the noncustodial parent. Some jurisdictions are permissive in how they rule on move-away cases, and other jurisdictions are more restrictive.

States in which the statutory language and case law pertaining to move-away cases is more permissive may result in more permissive rulings. In such states, there may be a strong presumption that the parent that has primary physical custody of the children has the right to move away with the children, while the burden to prevent the move-away (by showing that the move-away is in bad faith or would be detrimental to the welfare of the children) rests squarely on the noncustodial parent. Further, states that are more permissive in move-away cases may not require the custodial parent to show that the move is expedient to the child's welfare, or even necessary. In other words, if the move-away is good for the custodial parent, then the move-away is presumed to automatically be good for the children. The resulting high burden placed on the noncustodial parent to prevent the move-away has made such cases the perfect battleground for some custodial parents to alienate the noncustodial parent from his/her children.

In other jurisdictions, the statutory language and case law pertaining to move-away cases may be more restrictive, placing a higher burden on the custodial parent seeking to move. That parent may have to demonstrate that the move-away is in good faith, necessary, expedient to the welfare of the children, and/or in the best interest of the children. In such states, rulings regarding move-away cases may result in more restrictive move-away decisions.

Overall, move-away cases often have an all or nothing feel to them, especially for the noncustodial or left-behind parent. A move-away case can forever change a child's relationship with the left-behind parent. A move-away case is not about whether the parent can move away; it concerns whether the parent can move away with his/her children. If you are seeking a move-away order or trying to prevent a move-away order, you would be wise to consult an attorney to find out if your jurisdiction is permissive or restrictive in ruling on these cases.

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