Yes, but only under certain circumstances. All courts recognize the reality that divorced parents rarely remain in the same location as one another after divorce, many choosing to move elsewhere. However, courts also recognize that a custodial parent's decision to move far away can negatively impact a non-custodial parent's access to his or her children. As a result, courts may consider a custodial parent's relocation as grounds for a custody change, but only in conjunction with some additional factors.
What Additional Factors Do Courts Look At?
In addition to a custodial parent's relocation, a court may also consider the following when determining a change in custody:
- Which parent was the primary caregiver before the divorce
- Any incidents involving misconduct by one of the parents
- Each parent's involvement in the child¿s schooling and discipline
- Visitation rights of the non-custodial parent
- Amount of time the non-custodial parent can spend with child
- Child's relationship with current step-parent (if applicable)
It is important to note that the above list is by no means all inclusive, and courts will consider anything that relates to the best interest of the children.
Is There a Difference Between In-State or Out-of-State Relocation?
No. There are cases where a custodial parent's relocation in-state still warranted a change in custody. Likewise, there are cases where a custodial parent's relocation to the other side of the country did not warrant a change in custody. In fact, a few cases did not allow a custody change even when the custodial parent was moving to another country.
Although relocation to farther areas usually makes it harder for a non-custodial parent to see their children, some of the additional factors listed above may justify leaving custody with the more distant parent.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me?
If you feel your ex-spouse's relocation is preventing proper access to your children, you should contact a child custody lawyer immediately to assert your rights. A lawyer can whether inform you about custody laws in your state, and help determine whether your ex-spouse's relocation may be grounds for a change of custody.