When contemplating a move, whether to the next county or across the country, parents have plenty to think about. Questions you might ask yourself include, “How do the schools rank? How close (or how far) will my new home be from family? Will my children be able to participate in the same activities?” Depending on the age of your children you may even worry about how they will feel about the move.
Parents who share custody of their children with a former spouse or partner have even more to consider before relocating. For example, does your children’s other parent have to give his or her permission before you can move? Does he or she get to have a say when it comes to deciding where you live? While there may not have been cause to address these situations before, depending on your custody arrangement, the answer could be yes!
Relocation and Parenting Agreements
If you have a parenting agreement or custody order, it may address relocation. If so, check to see if there are geographical constraints. For example, your agreement or order may restrict parents from moving a certain distance from where he or she was living at the time the custody arrangement took effect. If you are considering a move that is far away, the issue could become more complex. Does your agreement or order explain what happens if either parent wants to move? If so, you need to follow those terms. Maybe you are required to attend mediation so that you and your children’s other parent can try to resolve the issue. In some cases, your only choice may be to return to court. Whatever the terms may be, make sure you comply or take reasonable measures to comply. Disregarding the terms of an agreement or order is one of the fastest ways to end up in court and, if your children’s other parent does file an action against you, the judge will not look kindly upon defiant behavior – regardless of the motivation. If you move with your children, without taking the proper steps to do so, the judge may order you to return the children and, in doing so, the judge may change the current custody arrangement in a way they feel serves the best interest of the child. Ultimately, it is less likely to be about what is best for you but instead what is best for the children.
If you do not have an agreement or order, or if your agreement or order does not address the issue of relocation, you could find yourself at the mercy of your children’s other parent. It may be best to discuss your plans to move with the other parent early. Explain to him or her why this move is best for you and the children. Do your research and plan ahead. Then, if you’re able to get the other parent on board, work out an arrangement that benefits everyone.
In many situations, it can seem almost impossible for former parents to agree to a convenient location for parenting exchanges, let alone one parent’s relocation. So, what happens when you can’t reach an agreement? Or you know that it won’t be worth the try? Consider talking with a family law attorney who can advise you on the specific options available to you and the best way to proceed in your case. If you don’t already have a custody order, you may want to make a claim for custody. If you already have an order, you may want to ask the court to modify your current custody arrangement.
Your children should always be the top consideration when you’re making a decision that will directly affect them. Even if you believe relocation is in their best interest, be prepared and know all of your options before you make any decisions.
If you are considering relocating, a good first place to start is to consult with a family law attorney. Contact an experienced attorney today at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office at (704) 442-0000.