Divorced parents are no stranger to the idea that life can be unpredictable. Whether you are the parent who needs to relocate, or your co-parent is suddenly talking about moving across the country, the news reminds you that your plans can change quickly, and, often, without your permission.
It is, admittedly, much simpler when both parents live close enough to allow your children fair and frequent contact with the other parent. Once you and your co-parent reach an agreement about child custody, the news that one of you is relocating can make it seem like you are starting over, but with an even more challenging version of the first negotiation.
Here’s what the courts tend to look at when it comes time to renegotiate child custody because a parent is relocating.
Moving is allowed
There are times when a parent has no choice but to move from the town, they called home. Whether the need to relocated is because of a job or family needs, parents can relocate, even if they share custody. The court cannot prevent a parent from moving, even though the move makes things more difficult for everyone. But, if the parents can’t agree, the court can and will decide whether the child moves with the relocating parent or stays with the parent who is not moving.
Although there will not be a court ruling stating a parent cannot move, a parent’s decision to relocate could impact how often they see their child.
Often, each parent assumes the child will live with them and visit the other parent occasionally. Unfortunately, this cannot be true for both parents, especially when they live far away from each other. Ultimately, the parents and the court will need to come to a decision about the child’s primary residence and how often the child can visit the other parent.
All sides considered
As a parent, you have reasons for wanting things for your child to go a certain way. Both the moving and non-moving parent will have reasons they think the child will be better served living with them.
Renegotiating a child custody arrangement can seem like a battle where the court chooses one parent over another, making one the “winner.” While it can feel like a win-lose situation, the court looks at the perspectives of both parents but is also required to focus first on the child. The court considers factors such as:
- Why the parent wants to relocate with the child
- Why the other parent opposes the move
- History and quality of each parent’s relationship with the child
- Anticipated impact on the child
- Extended family in the current and proposed new areas
- Educational resources in the current and proposed new area
- Impact on meaningful visitation for the other parent
In the past, courts approached child custody with an argument from the parent moving, then shifted the burden to the parent who opposed relocation. Now, the court considers many factors to, ultimately, determine what custody arrangement is in the child’s best interest, given the reality that the parents will no longer live as close to each other as before.
Best interest of the child
While parents may disagree on how to get there, their goal is the same; to do what is best for their child. Regrettably, this common goal with different paths is why child custody can be such a difficult dispute.
Typically, both parents believe that they will provide the best home and care for their child, but one parent relocating means sharing parenting responsibilities becomes more challenging. When parents cannot agree, courts will look at what best serves the child’s interests.
Compromise is difficult because there usually is not a way to treat it like a financial dispute and “split the difference”
Neither the parents nor the child wants potential relocation to be a protracted dispute. Indecision and arguing can be incredibly stressful for children. It is important to advocate for what you believe is best for your child, but when both parents recognize that they will have to compromise to make a new situation work, the process can be less stressful.
Ultimately, you know your child best and can determine whether keeping them involved in the child custody decision is best. However, it is essential to communicate with your co-parent regarding the best option for handling an upcoming relocation.
When you face potential renegotiation of child custody because of an upcoming relocation, you need to talk to an experienced lawyer who can help you advocate for your child’s best interests. A family law attorney can help you resolve a child custody dispute and reach an agreement that aligns with your custody goals.