There are few more contentious issues in child custody cases than when a custodial parent decides to relocate, particularly when it involves a significant distance. This may even be an issue when it is the non-custodial parent who decides to move. Whichever parent decides to relocate, the non-custodial parent’s visitation rights may be seriously curtailed.
Filing a Move-Away Petition
When a parent needs to relocate to another town, county or state, they can file a move-away petition with the court. The court will need to determine whether or not to give custody relocation to the parent based on this petition. If it is the non-custodial parent who is filing this petition, there must be some justification for removing custody from the custodial parent, as in proof of abuse or endangerment of the child. The non-custodial parent may also file a move-away petition in order to simply modify the custody agreement schedule in order to make visitation more convenient.
The family law judge will base his or her decision on how this move will affect the child, as well as how it will affect the ability of the other parent to have agreed-upon visitation and/or partial custody of the minor children. The court will also take into account other factors that will affect the welfare of the child, such as whether the move will allow the custodial parent to obtain better employment and thereby better provide for the child or children. The age of the child or children is also an important consideration, as younger children will be more deeply affected by such a move than teenagers.
Original Custody Jurisdiction
In child custody cases, jurisdiction remains with the original court where custody was first awarded. Custodial or non-custodial parents may not get around the law by moving with a child to another state and applying for a new custody arrangement in that state. The original custody order trumps all and will be applied first.
Competent Legal Representation
Custody cases involving relocation are rarely settled amicably. Unfortunately, parents who separate are quite often anxious to move on, to new relationships, career advancement opportunities, educational opportunities, family reconnections or even to escape an abusive relationship or unpleasant memories. Children are caught in the middle, and although the courts work hard to decide what is in the child’s best interest, often there is not an easy solution.
Whether you are a custodial parent, hoping to relocate, or a non-custodial parent not willing to give up precious visitations with your child, it is critical to retain the services of a competent attorney to make sure your rights as a parent are protected. Your divorce lawyer can advise you of the best route to follow and help ensure that you don’t inadvertently do anything that may harm your custodial status, by withholding visitation from the other parent. Courts do not look kindly on this, and could punish you by significantly altering your custody arrangement.
Parenting is a joint effort, and ideally, children should be able to spend time with both their parents, regardless of their parents’ marital status. In reality, this is not always the case, and some sort of compromise must be reached.