Are you headed towards divorce? If so, we want to warn you that things are going to change. Two or three years after the divorce, things are probably going to look very different. One of you may remarry. Your children may decide to switch homes and move in with the non-custodial parent. Or, one of you may move clear across the country.
One thing that comes up a lot after a divorce is a parental relocation. We’re talking about where the custodial parent decides to “move away” with the children. Understandably, this can make a lot of waves in some cases. If you’re planning on moving soon after the divorce or if your spouse is contemplating such a move, there are some things you should know.
Why Custodial Parents Move
Each situation is different, but a lot of custodial parents move for the following reasons:
- To remarry.
- To be closer to family.
- For a better job opportunity.
- To get away from their former spouse.
- To get a change of scenery, a fresh start.
“Can a custodial parent up and move away with their children?” Not exactly. If a custodial parent does not have sole physical custody, he or she should not move away with the children without asking for the court’s permission. Otherwise, the custodial parent can anticipate a legal battle with the children’s other parent.
Even if the non-custodial parent is supportive of the move, the custodial parent should go back to court to ensure the changes are reflected in the child custody arrangement. If the custodial parent fails to get a court order outlining the changes, it can backfire on them if the non-custodial parent changes their mind in the future.
Courts Examine the Children’s Best Interests
If a parent wants to move away and the non-custodial parent is contesting the move, the court will look at what’s in the best interests of the children. Before rendering a decision, the court will examine the following factors:
- The children’s wishes.
- Each parent’s wishes.
- The economic advantages of permitting the move.
- The children’s ties to their school, the community and extended family.
- The actual child custody arrangement, not necessarily what’s in the divorce decree.
- Any history of domestic violence.
- Any history of alcohol or substance abuse.
- The custodial parent’s reasons for moving.
- How the move would affect the children’s relationship with the non-custodial parent.
When does a court allow for a parental relocation? Essentially, it comes down to the best interests of the children and whether their lives will be enhanced by permitting the move. For example, if a mother is remarrying and her children will enjoy a much better quality of life and they barely see their father, the court may permit the move.
In contrast, if a mother is trying to move to someplace like California so she can “live by the beach” and she has no job lined up and no family there, and the father is loving and actively involved in his children’s lives, the court would be less inclined to allow the move. Or, the court may tell the mother that she can move, but the children have to stay with their father. It all depends on the facts of the case and the pros and cons of allowing the move.