Divorce is a messy and challenging time. Getting the paperwork done, the assets divided and custody schedules arranged is a Herculean feat you don’t ever wish to repeat. Life, though, keeps on chugging down the tracks. Yesterday’s custody arrangement may not work tomorrow. Maybe you need a new home and job after the divorce, maybe your current home is too expensive or maybe you need the support network of your extended family back home.
You’ve finalized the divorce, including the custody plans, and now you want to move on with your life. Now the question is this: Can I move out of town or out of state with the kids?
What you need to do first
When you have kids and you’ve been divorced, you can’t up and move. You need consent from the other parent, regardless if you have sole custody or joint custody. First, you need to communicate with your co-parent, followed by mediation and, finally, getting an official court decree before you can move.
How decisions are made
California is home to many transplant residents and moving to and fro is common in our increasingly mobile society. Move away cases are common, and they are often emotional and challenging. The determining factors are unique to each case, ultimately decided by a child’s best interests.
In short, reasoning for the move is not a major factor in the court’s decision, but instead it is the impact that a move will have on your child. In California, it’s on the non-custodial parent to prove that the move would be detrimental for the child. In a case of near-equal custody time, the counter argument must prove that the change in custody arrangements will hinder the child’s well being, either through family, social, community or other purposes.
In determining well being, the court considers many factors:
- Distance of move
- Impact on the previous custody schedule
- The child’s age, maturity and personal wishes
- The relationship between child and parents
- The child’s community ties
- Any health, education or special needs of the child
- Although the purpose for a move is not explicitly a factor, evidence that a move is intended to separate a child from a parent may influence the court decision.
The unique challenges
Although moves are common in today’s culture, the contentious element of separating parents and children by greater distance leads to stronger emotional arguments and a more elastic approach to judicial decisions.
The court cannot restrict an adult from moving but it can determine custody. This means if a court can say that a child cannot move away, but the parent is free to do and he or she wishes. In this case, the parent would forfeit custody.
Throughout child custody agreements in a divorce, the driving factor is always the well-being of the children, ensuring a child’s stability. When a move out of state (or even just 30 miles away) can be mediated to keep custody schedules in line with previous agreements or if technology can replace physical visitation, the process can be streamlined and flow more smoothly.
While moving is common in modern society, it’s a complicated matter that needs legal backing to accommodate the parenting plan reached during the divorce.