Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQ”)
on Relocation and Child Custody
Licensed Lawyer Provides Answers on Relocation and Child Custody
Q: What if the Custodial Parent Wants to Move Away From the Non-Custodial Parent?
A: Where the move distance is small, there might not even be a material change in circumstance upon which a parent could move the court to change an existing custody and visitation order. Courts typically require a material change of circumstance before modifying an existing custody or visitation order. A move across town is an insufficient basis upon which to change the existing order. Although the relocation may make the visitation exchange more difficult, it may remain practical to comply with the current order. In this case, no change would happen.
Where the relocation distance is great, the case becomes more complex. The child’s best interest remains the primary factor. Other facts under consideration include the existing custody and visitation arrangement; the attachment and support of the non-custodial parent and other relatives; the child’s ties to the community, school, church or synagogue, and friends; and the child’s desires and wishes. Only a few states require a custodial parent to get the written consent of the non-custodial parent or a court order based upon a finding of the court that it is in the best interest of the child to allow the move. In many states, a custodial parent can move if there is a valid reason for the relocation and the move does not result in harm to the child.
The ability of the child to have continuing and frequent contact with both parents, without a detrimental effect due to the relocation, is the primary consideration for a court in modifying an existing order to allow the relocation. The modified order of the court could provide more time with the non-custodial parent during summer and other school breaks, and requires the custodial parent to pay the extra transportation expenses incurred in facilitating the visitation exchange.
Custodial parents who move away with the child without providing notice to the other parent may not only face a change in custody to the other parent, but also criminal charges of kidnapping. Before entertaining any move, the non-custodial parent should understand the impending move and an effort to reach an acceptable parenting plan based upon the proposed location of both parents must be made. A relocation by the custodial parent requires careful consideration of the non-custodial parent’s rights as early in the planning process as possible. Move-away cases can become very difficult to resolve, and court involvement can be both costly and time consuming.