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Custodial Parent Moving out of State

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What is a Custodial Parent?

The custodial parent is the parent who has been granted a majority of time and rights in terms of child custody. This is the parent with whom the child spends most of their time. The custodial parent, or primary custodial parent, usually also has legal custody of the child, which means that they are authorized to make legal decisions on behalf of the child. The other parent is often called the “non-custodial parent.”

The term "custodial parent" can also refer to a parent who has sole custody of the child. Terms and for child custody purposes can also vary by state or local jurisdiction.

Can the Custodial Parent Move out of State and Bring the Child with Them?

Without an agreement between both parents of the child, relocation of the child will be difficult. In most cases, the custodial parent needs to obtain permission from the court if they will be relocating to another state and bringing the child with them. This is because such a move can be disruptive for the child’s upbringing, especially if the move will affect the child’s access to a non-custodial parent.

This may require a modification of a child custody order or visitation schedule. The parent seeking the modification will need to file a request with the court. The court would need to review the request as well as the reasons for the move. After analyzing the situation, the judge may approve the request and issue a new, modified child custody order.

What Happens If We Have Joint Custody?

If both parents have joint custody and one parent wants to relocate the child to another state, the parent that is trying to move or relocate the child has to prove that the move is the best interest of the child. This may include proving to the court that the new location is beneficial for the child’s living situation or education and would not disrupt the child in any way. 

If you are worried that the other parent may want to move away with your children, or if you think you may want to move away with the children, talk to a lawyer before you make a parenting plan to make sure your plan protects your rights as much as possible.

What Does the Custodial Parent Have to Establish for Relocation?

The custodial parent needs to prove that they have a good faith reason of why they are relocating the custodial child. Some states require a "good faith" reason for the move, especially if moving the child would interrupt the child's school, emotional, and social stability. Good faith reasons may include: 

  • Cost of living is cheaper or better;
  • Wanting to be closer to one's family to help with childcare obligations;
  • New job; and/or
  • Continuing one's or child’s education. 

The courts will still factor is the child’s best interest when deciding whether the relocation of the child. 

Can Custodial Parent Relocate to Another Country?

Relocation of the custodial parent to another country is also possible. Again, the custodial parent would need to file a petition with the court to have the custody order modified. The court would then review the factors and would need to approve any decisions before a move can be made.

Similarly, an adjustment may be needed if the parent is relocating to a closer location, such as an in-state relocation. This depends on the facts of the case as well as the child’s needs. For instance, a modification may be needed even for a closer relocation if the child has special medical or physical needs.

The laws and principles generally governing relocation of a custodial parent will also apply to the relocation of a custodial parent to another country. Since custody matters are left to the states, each state will differ in their treatment of custodial relocation. 

Can the Visitation Schedule Be Modified Due to Relocation?

In almost all states, the relocating parent is required to make a proposed visitation schedule for the noncustodial parent at the new location that they are traveling to live permanently. In addition, because child custody relocation may raise a substantial change in conditions, the parties may also need ask the court to modify an existing visitation schedule or child custody order 

What Happens If I Just Want to Travel to Another State or Country?

If you want to travel to another state or country with the child as a custodial parent you would need the other parent’s authorization. You might also need the other parent’s permission if traveling out of state of country will cause you to their court-ordered visitation. 

If you cannot find the other parent, you will need to go to court and ask the judge for permission to let you leave the state or country without the other parent’s permission. Once you have the judge’s permission, you would need to communicate the judge’s orders to the other parent. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Child Custody Matters?

Child custody matters may require the assistance of a qualified family law lawyer. You may need to hire a lawyer in your area if you need any help with child custody laws or issues. Your attorney can provide you with advice, legal representation, and information to help with your situation. Also, if you need to have a custody order modified, your attorney can assist with that process as well.

Photo of page author Ki Akhbari

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 11-08-2017 01:15 PM PST

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