Family Law

Relocation and Child Custody

Whether a parent with child custody must notify or gain permission from the non-custodial parent or the court before relocating the child varies from state to state. Courts have the power to deny permission to relocate if they find it would harm the child.

Notification and/or Permission Required to Relocate

Minor moves are usually not considered significant and don't require permission. For example, a move within a city from one neighborhood to another would not be considered significant under most circumstances.

What is considered a "significant" move depends on the given state's law. In some states, a relocation out of the county is significant. In others, it is a specified number of miles (like 50 or 100) away from the noncustodial parent. In other states, only moving out of the state is considered significant.

In some states, the custodial parent must give the noncustodial parent official written notice of the intention to move and it is up to the noncustodial parent to file an objection with the court. In other states, the custodial parent must file a petition with the court asking for the court's permission to relocate.

In some states, the court presumes the custodial parent's move will be allowed, unless the noncustodial parent can present compelling evidence that the children will be harmed more than helped by the move. In other states, the custodial parent has the burden of proving that the relocation is in the best interest of the children.

Most states have laws that spell out exactly how a court will decide whether or not the custodial parent can legally move out of the area with the children.

Courts have the power to deny permission to move if they find it would harm the children. Violating such a court order could have serious consequences.

Divorce decrees often have relocation provisions specifying if the children can be moved, how far, what notification is required, etc. In those states where such provisions are valid, the parents must stick to these provisions or attempt to get a court to modify them. Not all states recognize the validity of these agreements however.

Jurisdiction over Relocation

If the parents are not located in the same state, custody and visitation is governed by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. This law gives the child's home state jurisdiction over custody matters. The home state of the child is defined as the state that the child lived in with at least one of the parents for six months before child custody was granted. The child's home state has jurisdiction over questions regarding relocating the child.

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