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Custody Relocation

When it comes to child custody, the subject of relocation can be a very difficult, emotional topic.  There may be various reasons why you are considering a move, including potential job opportunities, closer proximity to family and friends, or simply the need for a change in environment following a divorce.  Regardless of your motivation for wanting to relocate, there are a variety of factors that you need to consider before determining if a move is right for you and your family.

If you currently have an agreement or custody order in place that sets the custody visitation schedule, you will want to carefully read over this agreement to make sure there is no provision addressing relocation.  Often times, custody agreements make reference to future moves by placing restrictions on parents as to how far they may move from their current location, or how much notice they are required to give the other parent before the move occurs.  Even if you are certain that the move is the best thing for you and your children, it is important to comply with any agreements that are currently in place, in order to avoid disputes down the road.  This may mean that you need to petition the court for a modification of the current custody schedule prior to moving.

Whether a relocation will be allowed varies from state to state, depending on current law.  In North Carolina, when considering a relocation case, the family law courts are required to consider the following factors:

  • The impact of the move on the child
  • Whether the relocation will improve the child’s life
  • Whether the advantages of the move outweigh the disadvantages if relocation is allowed
  • Whether the parent requesting the relocation has reasonable motives
  • The integrity of the noncustodial parent in resisting the relocation
  • Whether the court can create a reasonable, realistic visitation schedule should relocation be allowed
  • The likelihood that the party requesting relocation will follow the court’s order

If the parent not seeking to relocate consents to your move, then the issue can be easily handled through an agreement outside of court.  However, if the other parent objects to your move, you need to be prepared to present evidence in court to address all of the above factors.  Unilaterally deciding to relocate your family could potentially harm your case, and you could be ordered to return the child to the other parent.  At the hearing, the Judge will want to hear evidence regarding topics such as the child’s significant relationships and extracurricular activities in the area, the possibility of greater employment stability in the new location, and the current visitation schedule compared with possible new visitation schedules, should the relocation be allowed.

Each situation presents unique facts that may influence a court’s decision regarding whether to allow a move.  Important facts such as the age of the child, role of the non-custodial parent in the child’s life, and the distance of the child’s current home from the location that you are hoping to move to all play an important role in the decision.  Whether you are hoping to relocate with your children, or are being confronted with an unwanted, potential relocation of your child, it is very important that you seek legal advice to determine the best plan of action, and to determine what your rights are.

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