Divorce can be difficult, especially on a child. Having to split time between parents can put a strain on any parent-child relationship. That issue can become exasperated when the custodial parent relocates to another area and forces the two to maintain a long distance relationship.
If the custodial parent decides to relocate out-of-state without a prior agreement having been reached between the two parents, then a custody dispute regarding their decision to relocate is bound to ensue. When it does, the onus falls on the court to determine what is in the best interest of the child in terms of visitation and custody and whether the custodial parent should be required to remain in the same state as the other parent.
That being said, state laws, as they relate to child custody and parental relocation, are far from uniform. However, some commonalities do exist, particularly as they relate to notice, consent and presumption. If there is an expressed consent agreement authorizing a relocation, as outlined in the original child custody agreement, then judges will generally authorize the relocation.
Even then though, some states require the custodial parent give a written notice of an intended move 30 to 90 days before it occurs. In other states, the noncustodial parent has to either give consent, or if they object, file a motion with the court opposing the move. In rendering a decision, courts often look at the distance of the move, such as how far it is and whether it crosses state lines in determining if it is reasonable.
Many courts also look at whether the move was done in good faith. For example, is the custodial parent is moving for a better job, to an area with a lower cost of living or to be closer to his or her family? These might be more easily approved reasons than others. Reasons perhaps viewed much less favorably would include moves done out of revenge, such as to get away from the other parent.
Whether or not the noncustodial parent actually utilizes his or her visitation rights to spend time with his or her child will also be considered. The cost of travel and the proposed visitation schedule, once the move takes place, will be taken into account as well.
If you or someone you know is involved in a child custody dispute, a Houston, Texas, family law attorney can provide advice and guidance in your legal matter.
Source: FindLaw.com, “Child custody relocation laws,” accessed March 10, 2017