Moving Out of State as a Custodial Parent? Understand the Legal Process

As the custodial parent, it is easy to feel like you have more parental rights than the noncustodial parent. However, unless the terms of your child custody agreement explicitly state as such — it is best to assume that you do not. For this reason, whether it is due to a job relocation or just an earnest desire for a fresh start, a custodial parent cannot simply remove the child from the state and relocate.

Discuss Plans

Not every child custody agreement is surrounded by bitterness or anger. There are plenty of instances when both parents get along amicably. If you are in this sort of situation, you may want to begin the process with an informal conversation with the other parent about your plans, along with an opportunity for him or her to express their concerns. If the two of you can reach an agreement on your own, you can generally notify the court of your plans and have an attorney draft a new agreement based on the move.

Court Petition

In instances when the other parent will contest your wishes, you will need to file a petition with the court to request approval, of sorts, for the move. The petition is not to seek approval for you to move, but instead, to ask that the court keep the existing structure of the custody order in place after the relocation. Keep in mind that the other parent has every right to fight the relocation and ask the court to modify the agreement as a result. The court can also intervene and request changes to the agreement if they feel it is in the best interest of the child.

Realistic Expectations

Since the other parent has rights and the opportunity for a judge to rule on the matter, you need to have realistic expectations. In some instances, the court can side with you, and with others, they can drastically change the agreement in favor of the other parent. Generally, the reason for the move will largely influence how the petition moves forward. For example, a custodial parent who is moving out of state for a professional opportunity might have a better outcome than someone who is moving out of state to be closer to a new love interest.

Remember, no rule is baring you from moving out of state, but in terms of the wellbeing of your child, there is a process that must be followed. Make sure to contact family law services to ensure you go about the process the correct way.