You have primary physical custody of your children, and you’d love to move — but your co-parent isn’t likely to give their consent. Can you get the court to modify your custody agreement so that you can go? The answer depends on several different factors.

Can You Move With Your Children After a Divorce?

The decision to relocate after a divorce carries significant weight, especially when children are involved. It’s not merely a matter of logistics or personal preference; it involves navigating the complex terrain of legal stipulations, emotional adjustments, and the overarching priority of ensuring the welfare and happiness of the children. In this guide, we explore the multifaceted aspects of post-divorce relocation, emphasizing the legal, emotional, and practical considerations that must be weighed.

The “best interests of the child” rule everything

When custody is decided and divided, the courts always consider what benefits the child — not the parent. In other words, you need to frame your argument for the move-away request around how the move will benefit your children — not you.

For example, here’s how one common argument can be framed: You’re moving somewhere you’ll be close to your extended family. Your children’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all want to be involved in their lives, and they’re willing and able to provide child care while you work. That will not only enrich your children’s connections to their family, but they’ll also benefit financially from your increased income opportunities.

It’s true, naturally, that you benefit from the move as much as your children — but that’s not how you want to present your case in court.

In addition, you need to be prepared to show the court that you have no intention of depriving your co-parent of their visitation rights, that you’ll go out of your way to facilitate electronic visitation on a regular basis and that you’ll happily work on a custody schedule that will give your co-parent some quality in-person time with the kids after the move.

Tips for Success

While ultimately your ability to move with your children depends on whether or not it’s in their best interest, there are some things you can do to improve your odds.

  1. Know Your Custody Agreement: Before making any decisions, thoroughly review your custody agreement. Many custody arrangements include specific provisions regarding parental relocation. Understanding the terms outlined in the agreement is crucial for ensuring compliance and preventing legal complications.
  2. Communication with the Co-Parent: Open and honest communication with your ex-spouse is essential when considering a move. Discuss your intentions, the reasons behind the decision, and how it may impact the existing custody arrangement. Keeping the lines of communication open fosters a cooperative approach and minimizes potential conflicts.
  3. Obtain Legal Advice: Given the legal complexities surrounding parental relocation, seeking professional legal advice is highly recommended. A family law attorney can provide insights into state-specific regulations, potential challenges, and the steps required to modify existing custody arrangements.
  4. Provide Advance Notice: If your move aligns with the terms of your custody agreement, it’s essential to provide ample notice to the other parent. Courts generally expect parents to notify each other well in advance of any planned relocation, allowing for negotiation and potential modifications to the custody arrangement.
  5. Plan for Continued Parental Involvement: Despite the physical distance, make proactive plans to maintain a strong relationship between the non-moving parent and the child. Consider virtual visitation, frequent communication, and extended visitation periods during holidays and school breaks.

Relocating after a divorce with children requires careful planning, open communication, and adherence to legal processes. Whether you plan to move out of town or out of the state, you need to find out exactly what your rights and obligations are when it comes to the custody of your children. Find out more about your legal options before you make any plans.