Of all the potential issues that can arise in child custody cases, one of the most difficult and complicated to resolve is whether to permit the proposed relocation of the custodial parent. The relocation of the custodial parent necessarily impacts on the strength and quality of both parents' continued relationships with the child as well as fundamentally altering the child's environment, thus requiring substantial adjustments by all parties involved. Considering the opposing interests of the parties involved and the fact-intensive nature of the issues that must be addressed in each relocation case, it is easy to understand why they are rarely settled to everyone's satisfaction.
- Introduction to Child Relocation Issues: As our society has become increasingly mobile and migratory, the number of relocation cases has continued to expand at an astounding rate...
- Relocation and the Constitutional Rights of Parents: Before considering the complex factual issues that are a part of any relocation case, it is necessary to address the potential for relocation decisions to infringe on certain constitutional rights of the parties involved...
- Relocation by Parent with Sole or Primary Physical Custody: Most relocation cases involve situations where one parent has been awarded sole custody or primary physical custody of a child. These cases fundamentally differ from those involving joint or shared physical custody...
- Presumption in Favor of Relocation: Several jurisdictions have adopted a relatively permissive standard in resolving relocation disputes
- Best Interests of the Child: More commonly, jurisdictions do not presume that relocation should be allowed and decide disputes based solely on the effect of the move on the child's best...
- Shifting Burden: A small number of jurisdictions have adopted what amounts to an intermediate standard between presumptively allowing the custodial parent to relocate and requiring the custodial parent to demonstrate that the proposed move is in the best interests of the child...
- Provisions Against Relocation in Order: Often, the initial custody award will contain some provision addressing a custodial parent's right to relocate with a child...
- Relocation by Parent with Alternating or Shared Physical Custody: Another issue that arises with some frequency in relocation cases is a parent's right to relocate when the parents truly share physical custody of the child...
- In-State Moves: Relocation disputes may also arise when the custodial parent seeks to move with the child to another location within the same state. Generally, such intrastate moves are allowed regardless of the differing relocation standards applied by the states...
- Noncustodial Parent's Petition to Modify Custody: In addition to attempting to prevent relocation, the noncustodial parent often petitions to transfer custody when the custodial parent seeks permission to move...
- Relocation as Factor in Initial Custody Awards: In divorce or dissolution cases, a party's proposed relocation may also be considered a factor in determining the initial custody award...
- Factors Considered: Most jurisdictions have promulgated lengthy lists of factors to be utilized in determining whether a custodial parent's proposed relocation should be permitted...
- 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
- Economic Reasons: 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...
- Educational Opportunities: Another reason which is often found sufficient to permit relocation is the custodial parent's pursuit of educational or training opportunities with an eye toward improving the parent's earning potential, job opportunities, or chance for advancement...
- Remarriage: 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...
- Personal Reasons: While the employment or educational opportunities of a custodial parent's new spouse may constitute legitimate economic reasons for a proposed relocation, the actual remarriage of the custodial parent and the decision to move to be with the new spouse are purely personal...
- Extended Family: Another personal reason that is often found to be sufficient to permit a custodial parent to relocate with the child is the desire to move closer to the custodial parent's family
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