Child custody and visitation frequently lead to disputes. Once the divorce is complete and there is a custodial parent with the other parent granted visitation rights, it does not necessarily mean that the disagreements are at an end. Issues might still arise that cause problems between the parties.
One common disputes involves a custodial parent who wants to relocate with the child. This could make it necessary to adjust the visitation schedule from what it was. In some cases, the parent is moving a great distance away and the other parent is opposed to it. From both perspectives, it is vital to be aware of what the law says regarding a relocation so they are prepared to address the situation.
What if a custodial parent is planning to relocate?
Since the custodial parent choosing to relocate is considered a substantial change in circumstances, they are required to inform the other parent of their intention and do so in writing with 60 days’ notice. In an emergency, the 60 days do not apply and they must inform the other parent as soon as they can.
The other parent must be told when the move is going to take place; where they will live; and how long the relocation is intended to last. The court can scrutinize the decision to move to ensure it is done in good faith. Some parents might try to relocate due to lingering animosity with the other parent and the move is being done to negatively impact the relationship between the non-custodial parent and the child.
It is possible that the other parent will simply agree to the relocation. They will then sign the notice and it can proceed. When the non-relocating parent chooses to object or they cannot agree on the necessary changes to the parenting time agreement, then the relocating parent will need to file a petition with the court to get approval.
Just as it did when it formulated the original parenting plan, the new template will be based on the child’s best interests. The court will need to know why the parent is relocating; why an objection is being lodged; the type of relationship the parents have; if there was interference between a parent and the other parent’s relationship with the child; if there is extended family in the new location; how the child will handle the relocation; if the child is old enough and mature enough to state a preference; and if it is possible the move will hinder the connection between the non-custodial parent and the child.
Parents need to be protected and know their rights
A divorce and a child custody and visitation plan does not necessarily mean the case is over. Just as it was important to be fully prepared for the initial case, it is also wise to be ready for the inevitable obstacles that can come up with custody and visitation, particularly if a custodial parent wants to relocate.
Along with the emotional aspect of a parental relocation, it can be burdensome financially. The relocating parent could be doing so to be closer to their own family, for a job or to receive an education. The non-custodial parent might have fears about not having the same level of access to the child they did before.
It is possible that the parents can amicably negotiate an arrangement to make sure the relationship is maintained. If they cannot, they will need court intervention. Regardless of the circumstances, parents need to put the child’s needs and the forefront and consider their options to reach a reasonable agreement. This is a fundamental part of any family law case.