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Can I relocate with my child if I have a custody order?

Whether you went through a painful divorce or you and your child's other parent were never married, you have likely struggled with the complications of custody and visitation issues. Adhering to a court-ordered custody ruling may seem frustrating at times, especially if your co-parent was less than cooperative.

Now you may have the chance to make a major change in your life, and that change could bring many positive opportunities for you and your child. However, your new opportunity requires a move further west in North Dakota or perhaps to a new state altogether. What happens to your child custody order in this case?

Improving your chances for a relocation approval

If your custody ruling has been in effect for two years or longer, the court may consider a modification or change in its terms. This is not easy to achieve, especially when it comes to moving away from your child's other parent. Family courts are reluctant to separate children from their parents, since most child experts agree that spending time with both parents is best in cases where abuse or neglect are not an issue.

If you hope to move farther than 50 miles from your co-parent, you will have to prove to the court any of the following factors:

  • Your child is in danger or your child's well-being is in jeopardy with the current custody arrangement.
  • Your co-parent has persistently defied the current custody order.
  • The other parent has not spent meaningful time with your child in a year or longer.
  • The other parent has already moved out of the area.
  • The move to a new location will be best for the child.

When considering the best interests of the child, the court will consider a number of questions including these and others:

  • Is there a history of violence on the part of your parenting partner?
  • Has your co-parent made false child abuse accusations against you?
  • Does your spouse have an addiction to drugs, alcohol or gambling?
  • Has your spouse been unwilling to demonstrate cooperation with you on parenting issues?

The court will also weigh each parent's ability to provide the essentials for your child and whether the move will offer your child benefits he or she does not have in your current home town. This may include better educational opportunities, extracurricular offerings, or proximity to grandparents and other supportive relatives.

If you anticipate moving to a new location with your child and your co-parent has not consented to the move, you are likely to face many legal challenges. Securing the assistance of a family law attorney may improve your chances of a successful petition for a custody modification.

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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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