After settling into their post-divorce lives, people may want to relocate. They may consider moving across town, to a new city or out of the state altogether to pursue job opportunities, live closer to family or just to achieve a fresh start.
Depending on the circumstances, parents may need to modify their existing child custody orders before making this type of life change.
Modifying a child custody order
According to state law, parenting plans should specify which parent will have the right to determine the child’s primary residence. Further, such plans may dictate a specific geographical area for the child’s residence. Therefore, parents cannot relocate their children’s residences outside of such specified areas without seeking a modification of their existing custody orders. If the parenting plan does not indicate a geographic area, parents may move away with their children with no regard to the location.
Determining the best interests of the child
In deciding whether to approve a child custody modification request, the court may determine if the move serves the child’s best interest. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, family law courts may consider various factors in determining the child’s best interest, including the following:
- Each parent’s ability to provide adequate care and a safe residence
- Each parent’s physical and mental health
- The existing parent-child relationships
- A history of domestic violence
The court may also take into account other factors which it deems relevant to deciding whether to allow the custody modification or not.
Understanding their legal obligations when planning to relocate with their children may help people avoid running afoul of their existing custody orders, and thus, potentially facing consequences that may affect their relationships with their children.