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Navigating the challenges of child custody relocations

Divorce is always complicated. Add children, and the divorcing couple faces even more stress. And when one parent wants to move to another part of the country with their children? That brings in an entirely new set of challenges. 

The best move? Parents need to work together when relocation issues arise. This can be difficult. But the key is to do what's best for the children. If a compromise can be found that guarantees that children are able to maintain a relationship with both parents, that is usually the best move.

To reach this compromise, it is important for parents to work with attorneys who have focused experience in child custody relocation laws.

It's easy to see why relocation issues can add stress to already challenging child custody situations. When one parent wants to move children to a new location -- often far across the country -- it can force those children into a long-distance relationship with the other parent. This is far from ideal.

The non-custodial parent, the parent who does not have daily custody of the children, might object to a move if it cuts down on this parent's ability to visit the children. This means that courts must often decide whether a custody relocation is good for children. If the court finds that it isn't, it can require that the parent with custody not move.

Different states have varying rules when it comes to custody relocations.

Some states allow what is known as express consent. In such states, relocations are allowed if both parents agree to the move and a new visitation schedule. Express consent is usually worked out during the original child-custody hearings.

Others have a notice and consent system. These states require that parents give written notice to non-custodial parents when they plan to move. In some states, non-custodial parents must give their approval of the move.

In some states, distance plays a factor. Courts might allow a relocation if the move is within a certain number of miles, say 100 or less. Other states will require that parents provide what is known as a good faith reason for a move. Legitimate good faith reasons might include a parent who wants to move closer to extended family to make raising children an easier task. It could also include a job offer that requires the parent to relocate or a move to a community with more offerings for their children.

The behaviors of the non-custodial parent can also play a role in whether courts allow a relocation. If the non-custodial parent rarely visited the children or became a parent who was rarely present, courts are more likely to approve a relocation.

Once parents do receive permission to move with their children, they still have work to do. The courts will usually require them to draft a new visitation schedule. This might mean that the children live with the non-custodial parent during most of the summer or on holiday breaks.

Parents might need, too, to request that the court modify their existing visitation or custody orders. This is because a relocation brings a significant change to custody. The courts might even suggest, in some rare cases, that the parent who is not relocating take custody of the children.

The key, again, is that parents should work together as much as possible to create a workable visitation schedule that removes as much stress as possible on their children. 

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Commandments of Family Law

  1. The only truth your children need to know is that you both love them unconditionally, and that this isn't their fault.
  2. Take the high road — everyone wins when you do what's best for your kids.
  3. Negotiate but don't capitulate — if you are being pushed toward something detrimental for your children, stand your ground.
  4. You can only control yourself and how you respond. Don't engage.
  5. Do set up rules and responsibilities. Kids feel better when routine is continued.
  6. You are still their parent — don't be afraid to be one.
  7. Disneyland is in California, not in your home. Don't set up unreasonable expectations.
  8. It is not their job to take care of you. Repeat that to them. Often.
  9. Yelling is for sports — not court. Good lawyers strongly advocate without being disrespectful to opposing parties.
  10. Fair is a place you go to get cheese curds. Aside from that, nothing in life is fair.

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