Relocating your kids when you have a custody order

An empty moving box with a roll of packing tape and a pair of scissors next to it.

Moving your kids when you have a custody order is about as painful as custody was in the first place. Whether you are a parent with primary custody, partial custody, or joint custody, you know that living with custody orders means living with the constant possibility of court supervision of your parenting. If you want to move to a new location, there may be significant impacts on your custody or visitation arrangements. Custody relocation can create direct conflict between the custodial parent’s desire to move and the non-custodial parent’s desire to maintain a relationship with their child.

In determining whether relocation is possible or right for you, we should begin by considering what form of custody relocation you’re considering. It is in-state, out-of-state or international? Obviously the distance you’re relocating has a dramatic impact on how to approach the matter, legally.

Forms of Custody Relocation

In-State Relocation: In-state relocation occurs when the custodial parent wishes to move to another city or region within the same state or jurisdiction. In Pennsylvania, if you’re moving from one school district to another, you will need the agreement of the other parent and potentially of the court. Even if the move is within a school district, if it’s a move a great distance away from the other parent, you may still need agreement or a court order.

Out-of-State Relocation: Out-of-state relocation occurs when the custodial parent wishes to move to a new state or jurisdiction. Relocating to a new state often comes with more stringent legal requirements since it will directly affect the non-custodial parent’s ability to maintain visitation and parental involvement. Of course, a move just across a state line is less serious than a move across the country. Out-of-state relocations also mean that the jurisdiction that will have control over future custody modifications will likely change. That sort of change of venue has to be approved by the court.

International Relocation: International relocation occurs when the custodial parent wishes to move to another country with the child. This becomes even more complicated, as international custody laws must be considered. Treaties and international conventions can control many of the rules in these scenarios, and such relocations are generally disfavored by the courts.

How to Handle Custody Relocation

Handling a custody relocation case typically involves the following steps:

  1. Providing Notice—If you are seeking relocation, you must provide formal notice to your co-parent and the court. This notice should include your proposed move, why you are moving, and revised parenting plan or visitation schedule. This should include some give and take—a co-parent will likely not want to hear that the schedule and custody plan have to change because of your new job or other opportunity.
  2. Raising Objections—If you are the non-custodial parent and you would like to object to the move, you can do so. If there is no agreement, the case has to be taken through the courts to get judicial approval.
  3. Attending Mediation—You and your co-parent may need to attend mediation to try and reach an agreement on relocating and modifying custody or a visitation plan.
  4. Attending a Court Hearing—If you are unable to reach an agreement through mediation, you and your co-parent will need to attend a court hearing. During this hearing, you and your co-parent will both have opportunities to present any evidence or arguments in support of or opposition to the relocation and its impact on your child’s best interests.
  5. Applying the Best Interests Standard—The court’s primary consideration in custody relocation cases is the best interests of the child. The court will weigh factors like the reason for the move, the relationship between the child and both parents, the child’s age, any educational needs, and other relevant factors when determining whether the move is in the child’s best interest.
  6. Receiving the Decision—The court will determine whether the relocation is allowed and whether any modifications to the custody or visitation arrangement are necessary.

You need caring representation to protect your child’s best interests.

Relocation cases can be emotional, but they are always important. The family law attorneys at Cornerstone Law Firm can help you evaluate your options and consider what’s ahead. If you are looking to file a petition for custody relocation or to object one, call us. We can help you mediate with your co-parent, present your case, and protect your parental rights while providing the best outcome for your child. Call us today to set up a consultation.