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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CONSIDERATIONS VARY-- Courts consider several factors when deciding whether to allow a parent to relocate with a child, including the age and maturity of the child (the judge may consider the preference of the children); the distance between new and old home (the court is usually more sympathetic to moves that make it possible for the noncustodial parent to exercise visitation); and the quality of life (the effect on the child’s education and leisure opportunity in a new location).
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