Can I Move Out of State with My Kids After Divorce?

Following a divorce, some people want to move out of state with their children to make a clean start or for a job opportunity. But this is not always possible, even if you are the custodial parent. Permanently moving to another state with children after divorce can be tricky and lead to complications if the proper steps are not taken.

Moving a Child Out of State After Divorce

Moving a child out of state after a divorce usually requires a modification order to be in place after a divorce decree has been entered. Your divorce agreement is a legal document that will also detail your custody arrangement. It may also detail how far away you can move without needing to request a modification.

Court permission is often required even if you are the parent with sole legal custody. Typically, if the other parent grants permission for the move, the court will agree. Both parties typically have to sign off on an agreement. The agreement is often part of a modification order given to the judge to review and sign. This modification order will also include a new visitation schedule to accommodate the greater distance between the parent and child.

Many parents may think that a written agreement between them is enough to move out of state with a child. But this can put the parent moving at risk if the other parent later changes their mind. Since the agreement was never court-approved, the parent may be forced to return their child to their original state of residence.

When parents have joint physical custody, it may be harder to convince the court to allow the move if the other parent objects. If the child is flourishing spending equal time with both parents, it may be difficult to prove to the court the move is in the child’s best interest.

What Happens When the Other Parent Objects to the Move?

When one parent objects to the move, it can be hard to reach an agreement. If this happens the modification request could go to trial. The court will consider several factors to decide whether to grant the move:

Reason for the Move

The parent requesting the move needs to clearly state why they are moving. If it is for a new job, a judge may ask if there is comparable employment available locally. Also, if the move is employment-based, a judge may ask if it is a voluntary or mandatory move.

Distance of Move

A court may be more likely to grant a parent’s request to move one or two states over rather than across the country. This type of move may result in a child getting minimal time with one parent.
Current Parenting Time
If one parent hardly sees their child now, and the other parent asks to move out of state, the court may be more likely to grant the move. If a child spends a significant amount of time with the other parent, they may have a harder chance of getting their request granted.

Quality of Life

If the move to another state will improve the child’s quality of life, the judge may grant the request.

Other Family

If the child is leaving other siblings behind, the court may be hesitant to grant the request. The court will also look at what, if any, family members are living in the state the parent wishes to move to. If there is a solid support system in place with extended family, it may sway the court’s decision.

When it comes to relocating to another state, a judge will always put the child’s best interest first. The court will look at whether the move will benefit the child and if so, whether it trumps staying where they currently reside.

What If a Custodial Parent Moves a Child Without Getting Necessary Permission

Parents could face serious consequences if they violate a court order or don’t get the proper permission. This includes contempt orders which could result in fines and/or jail time. A parent can also lose primary physical custody and could face criminal charges.

This is why it’s always best to refer to your divorce agreement and get permission to move out of state with your children after a divorce. Ignoring the rules will only end up hurting your children in the long run and can result in severe legal consequences.

If you are looking for more information reach out to the Law Offices of William M. Strachan and we would be more than happy to assist you.