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Parents should be prepared for relocation disputes

On Behalf of | Mar 19, 2024 | Child Custody |

Divorced parents may have made their child custody decisions and developed a parenting time schedule, but this does not mean the situation will always be smooth. One challenge that can arise is relocation.

A custodial parent might want to move away for myriad reasons. Since a move can impact the noncustodial parent’s time with the child, the have the right to object to the move or have the parenting time schedule adjusted.

It is wise for parents to understand how the law handles these issues from both perspectives to try and reach an acceptable outcome. A key is to ensure the child is not caught in the middle and their development is not hindered as the sides seek viable solutions.

Fundamental facts about parental relocation

Before a parent can relocate with a child, the court  must modify an existing parenting time order. Of course, the sides can simply agree to the modification and allow the custodial parent to relocate. In some instances, this is possible. Perhaps the parties are on amicable terms and there are workable options so the noncustodial parent has sufficient time with the child under a new parenting time template.

An example could be an extended period in which the child stays with the noncustodial parent during summer vacation when the parenting time was split differently under the original order.

However, there are many cases in which the other parent objects to the move. If the relocation will substantially alter the noncustodial parent’s ability to see the child as they did before, a hearing will be necessary. In deciding these cases, the court looks at various factors.

In these cases, the court wants to know why the move is being made. A custodial parent might have a job offer in the new location; they could have family they want to be close to; or they can be moving because they want to pursue a new relationship.
At the same time, the other parent needs to show why they are against the relocation. It could deny them reasonable parenting time or they could be fearful as to the child’s safety.

The court assesses each parent’s relationship with the child and how the previous parenting time order was working. It also considers whether the parents can work together to help the child’s development.

Other factors include the child’s educational opportunities; if there is extended family in the new location; if the child will benefit by remaining with the custodial parent; if there are options to reasonably change the parenting time order to suit the new circumstances; and how to ensure the child’s best interests are served.

Relocation and parenting time can be handled with qualified guidance

Any child custody and parenting time issue can be difficult areas of family law. This is particularly true when the custodial parent is relocating and the noncustodial parent is afraid  that their time with the child can be limited.

Before letting emotions lead to hard feelings, it is important to be aware of the available solutions. As the case moves forward, the parents should be prepared to try and find a reasonable outcome, most importantly to avoid an upheaval for the child.