If you need to relocate for any reason–work, cost of living, or just a simple new beginning–you may have difficulty renegotiating your custody agreement. If you are the sole custodial parent, or even if you share custody, and want to take your child or children with you, expect a reevaluation of the agreement. Remember that any decision made by the Court must revolve around the child’s best interests. The original custody agreement reflected what the Court believed that to be at the time of divorce, and relocating could change those opinions.
If these move-away custody disputes reach court, they are subject to a host of legal standards and variable burdens of proof, requiring a deep understanding of the law surrounding these issues. Some of the most relevant questions the court will attempt to determine are those related to the best interests of the child, specifically, what will this move do to the relationships the child has developed up to that point in time and whether or not the move is best for the child. The focus is not on the parents; rather the focus is entirely on the child and what is best for him or her.
When deciding based on the best interests of the child, the Court will consider the child’s relationship with each parent, the ability of each parent to provide a safe, loving, stable environment, the ties a child has to his or her current location (friends, school, extracurricular activities and other important factors that influence the child’s well-being. Providing the best possible care in each area will likely help you maintain custody of your child or children.
The Court also respects the other parent, and maintains a policy that children should keep frequent and continued contact with both parents, regardless of the formal custody arrangement (with prominent exceptions with domestic violence). If the move will hinder your co-parent’s efforts to see your children, you may need to consider making a plan to continue those visitations before your case goes to court. As always, consulting a divorce attorney will simplify this journey and provide help dealing with any all and contingencies.