When a custodial parent considers a significant relocation that affects the non-custodial parent’s ability for realistic visitation time, it must be approved by a judge in family court. If you’re unsure whether the proposed relocation destination’s distance and other travel factors are permissible under your custody agreement, consult a lawyer before starting relocation plans.
Obviously, the process is much simpler if the non-custodial parent formally approves the relocation.
Typically, custody cases don’t end up in court when a relocation is reasonably nearby. But if driving time is considerable, flights are necessary, or other factors make visitation challenging, then the custody agreement must be updated.
How much forewarning you must provide to the non-custodial parent will depend on your state, but written notice ranges from 30 to 60 days. It must include information like the new address, the names and ages of other people living in the new location, and the new school’s name, among many other details.
Primarily, the court will want to hear whether moving or staying is in the child’s best interest. Perhaps the factor that carries the most weight is how deeply the child is connected to their current location. This mainly applies to school-aged children, who may have close friends in the area, and how far along they are on their education path.
The court will also consider the sometimes-nebulous argument regarding which parent the child is closest to.
Finally, if they’re old enough, the court will want to hear directly from the child about where they want to live.
Every case is unique, so the judge must weigh numerous criteria of varying importance, then make a big-picture decision.
Many of the same concerns for a domestic move are considered for a proposed international move. Whether you’re the parent that is moving or staying, the court will be most interested in what’s best for the child.
A key factor will be whether or not the proposed country is a part of the Hague Convention, which allows custody disputes to be determined in the country of origin. This is crucial when one parent illegally abducts a child and takes them outside of the U.S. Furthermore, if the custody agreement isn’t recognized in the proposed country, that could end proceedings before they start.
The court will want information about the cultural practices in the proposed relocation destination. For example, girls and women in some countries have less social and/or legal freedom than in the U.S. Even if the child studies at an international school without these restrictions, a judge may have concerns about their emotional development and access to healthcare in such an environment.
Any possible visitation complications for the non-custodial parent will also factor into the decision.
It bears repeating that any relocation outside of reasonable travel time, even to a nearby city, may require a custody agreement update. Do not begin relocation plans before this has been addressed.