Child custody cases are undoubtedly some of the most emotional and difficult legal cases, where outcomes are not always determined without a legal battle by bringing divorcing parents before the court to have decisions made for them regarding minor children, including details such as custodial parent, parenting rights, and more. An attorney who handles child custody cases knows that one of the worst circumstances is when the custodial parent must move to another location for whatever reason; it often brings the entire case back in court again. So it is important for each parent to learn from their attorney about relocation laws pertaining to child custody and how to resolve any issues and avoid going back to court.
What Distance is Too Far?
In any custody situation, there are state laws that dictate how far away from a noncustodial parent that the custodial parent can relocate with any children in their care. Restrictions can be made based on distance from the other parent, crossing of state lines, or both.
In some states, a child may be moved across state lines as long as the involved distance is within a certain number of miles from the second parent. Other states might allow movement of a certain number of miles within the state yet prohibit a relocation that crosses state lines in any way no matter what the distance. A child custody lawyer would advise that difficulty often arises when the relocating parent is restricted from such a move or the non-relocating parent faces a restricted visitation ability due to the distance involved.
Besides distance, relocation can be permitted or restricted by a state based on the custodial parent’s reason for moving. Lower cost of living, a better job, continuing education, or moving closer to family are some of the reasons often considered for “good faith” moves and are typically viewed by the court more favorably. A desire to relocate just to get further away from a divorced spouse or any similar non-productive reason can be denied as not in good faith or not in the child’s best interest. A lawyer handling child custody advises that there are no guarantees either way, so noncustodial parents must realize that not having a valid reason to prevent a relocation will be considered for significance and validity as well.
Notice of Relocation
Regardless of the relocation destination or any other agreements regarding a custodial parent relocating with children, it is also required in some states to provide some amount of notice to the noncustodial parent. Length of notice is usually dictated by the state and can be anywhere from 30 to 90 days from the date of the projected move and such notice must have been provided in writing to the noncustodial parent.
Besides providing notice of relocation and meeting any regulations assigned by the state, custodial parents are sometimes required to obtain written consent from the noncustodial parent prior to actually moving. This is not necessary with Express Consent, where a determination has been made ahead of time to govern the rules and details of relocation with a child, often agreed to at the time of the initial custody hearing. By handling such necessary decisions ahead of time, a future move could be easier for all to handle.
Parenting rights and time must always be considered and a plan reached concerning amount of time, specific days, and who pays expenses that are incurred due to travel. In joint custody arrangements, time may be needed to re-evaluate custody as a noncustodial parent may petition to change original custody decisions to avoid children moving away. Since legal restrictions and requirements can be quite complex in child custody relocation cases, it is recommended that either or both parents consider the services of an experienced child custody lawyer to help reach an agreeable solution. Hopefully, the outcome will be satisfactory to both parents and work in the best interest of the minor children.
Reynaldo G. Garza, III
680 E. St Charles, Suite 600
Brownsville TX 78520