Will Relocation Violate Your Child Custody Order?

Listen to this article

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

A custodial parent can’t relocate a minor child to a different county or state without securing permission from the specific court responsible for issuing the original custody order. If the parent relocates the child without court approval and in contravention of the wishes of the noncustodial parent, a judge may issue a contempt order against the custodial parent. The judge could even modify the original custody order in support of the noncustodial parent.

Can Parents Consent to the Relocation?

Parents can reach an agreement regarding the relocation. If both parties consent to the child’s relocation and come up with a new parenting-time schedule that takes into account the new location and offers the noncustodial parent a reasonable amount of time with the minor child, then the judge may allow it. Of course, the judge will consider whether the relocation and the new arrangement serve the child’s best interests, preferences, and unique health and educational needs before approving.

If parents fail to reach an agreement, they can work with a custody mediator to help them arrive at a win-win arrangement. If mediation doesn’t work, the relocating parent will need to petition the court for relocation permission.

What are the Consequences of Relocating without a Modified Custody Order?

A custodial parent who has secured a much-needed job relocation may be tempted to move without obtaining a modified custody order. This decision, however, amounts to a breach of the original custody order and the parent would most likely face contempt of court charges. The parent would also be required to cover the attorney fees of the other parent on top of his or her own.

Making a unilateral relocation could affect how the court looks at the custodial parent’s rationality moving forward. The court may think that the custodial parent will make hasty decisions or based on his or her selfish interests without taking the children’s best interests into account.

What to Consider Before Moving and Modifying A Custody Arrangement

Deliberating on the Needs of the Child and Relocation Intentions

The relocating parent should consider the child’s best interests and have the custodial arrangement modified accordingly. He or she should consider the child’s age, preferences, unique health or educational needs, and community involvement. The parent should also weigh his or her relocation intentions. The court will typically not look favorably on the relocating parent if it appears that the intent to move is to interfere with the other parent’s visitation or custody rights.

Evaluating the Child Custody Order

The relocating parent should check the custody order to determine if it addresses relocation. If it doesn’t, he or she should check whether the move would make the current parenting-time schedule impossible. Moving to another state would significantly disturb the schedule, especially if both parents have significant custody and visitation rights.

Preparing for Court Hearings

If the parents fail to agree and exhaust all the alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, a court process will be necessary. The relocating parent should have a family law attorney on his or her side throughout the entire process of requesting the court to modify the original custody arrangement. The attorney can review the unique facts and circumstances of the relocating parent’s situation and advise the parent about his or her rights and available legal options.