What do I have to do to be able to legally move my children out of state?

The state recognizes that it is generally is in the best interest of children to have two parents actively involved in their children’s lives. This can include joint legal and joint physical custody. At the time of divorce, however, the courts may have decided that one parent should have primary physical custody of a child while the other parent was granted some type of visitation rights. Recently on our legal forum a parent asked, “If I want to move my child out of state can I do that without the consent of my ex-spouse?”

How do you get a move-away order?

If the father of the child has been actively engaged with the child for years and has consistently visited the child, you can expect a great deal of push back if you decide to move out of state and reduce the ability of the father to see the child.

In fact, in most state, under most joint custody arrangements, you will have to go to court and ask permission to move the child out of state. Failure to do so can result in contempt of court charges, including fines and potential jail time.

If the father agrees to the move, however, you may not have to go to court. In fact, you may simply have to sign a stipulation and consent agreement, which can be issued as a court order and approved by a judge.

Convincing the court to allow you to move

If the father does not approve of the move, however, you will have to convince the court that you should be allowed to move, and that may not be easy. As mentioned above, courts want to do what is in the best interest of the child. If you do not have a good reason for moving and the father and the child have a good relationship, it’s likely they will deny the move.

So what will the court consider prior to making their decision? They will consider all of the following:

  • Whether the non-custodial parent is involved in the child’s life.
  • Whether the relationship, if it exists, can be maintained given the move.
  • The preference of the child, if age appropriate.
  • The needs, age, and impact of the move on the child’s emotional, educational, and physical well-being.
  • Whether the move is likely to improve the child’s financial status.
  • The motivation for the move.
  • Whether the moving parent is trying to negatively impact the relationship of the child and the other parent.
  • Whether the move will improve the safety and the welfare of the child.
  • Whether the custodial parent has a new job.
  • Whether the custodial parent has remarried.
  • Whether the move allows the custodial parent to be closer to family who could help in rearing the child.

If the court is able to determine it is in the child’s best interest that the parent be allowed to move them out of state, they will allow the move.

What if there is not a custody order?

If there is not a custody order, if the non-custodial parent has had no contact with the child, or you were not legally married to the father, you may have much more flexibility to do what you would like.

Given the complexity of child custodial arrangements, state laws, and numerous other legal factors, it is always best to talk to a family law attorney before moving to a new state with a child.

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