In a family law context, 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 will spend most of their time. 

The custodial parent, or primary custodial parent, will typically also have legal custody of the child. This means that they are authorized to make legal decisions on behalf of the child. The other parent is often called by other names, such as the “non-custodial parent.”

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

Can the Custodial Take the Children If They Move Out of State?

Without a formal agreement between both parents of the child, relocation of the child will be difficult. In most cases, the custodial parent needs to get permission from the court if they will be relocating to a different 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 the other parent.

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

Can You Move Out of State If You Have Joint Custody?

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

If you believe you may want to move away with the children, then talk to a lawyer before you make a parenting plan to make sure your plan protects your rights as much as possible. It is very important to not make the move before you talk to a lawyer and file a petition. In cases of child custody, it is always better to ask for permission instead of forgiveness.

What Does the Custodial Parent Have to Prove for Relocation?

The custodial parent needs to prove that they have a good faith reason for why they are relocating the custodial child out of state. Some states require a “good faith” reason for the move, especially if moving the child would interrupt the child’s schooling, 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 prioritize the child’s best interests when deciding whether the relocation of the child. You cannot plan on moving so you can deprive the other parent access to their child, unless that other parent has no parental rights due to issues with domestic violence or child abuse. 

Can a Custodial Parent Relocate to Another Country?

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

Similarly, an adjustment may still 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 specific and unique needs. For instance, a modification may be needed even for a closer relocation if the child has special medical, educational, or physical needs.

The laws and principles 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 relocation. 

Can the Child Visitation Schedule Be Changed Due to Relocation?

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

Would I Need to Get Permission to Travel with My Child If I Share Custody?

If you simply want to travel to another state or country with the child as a custodial parent, then 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 affect their court-ordered visitation rights. 

If you cannot find or locate the other parent, then 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 when possible. 

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Child Custody Matters?

Child custody matters are complex may require the assistance of a qualified child custody lawyer. You may need to hire a lawyer in your area if you need any help with relocation and child custody laws or issues. 

Your attorney can provide you with advice and legal representation to help with your situation. Also, if you need to have a child custody order modified, your attorney can assist with that process as well.