Relocation and Child Custody

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 Is it Possible to Move My Child Out of State?

A common concern for parents is whether they can relocate out of state with their child, particularly when a former spouse has visitation rights.

You can move out of state with your child if you are the primary custodial parent. However, relocating your child out of state depends on your state’s child custody laws and the noncustodial parent’s agreement with the move.

Disputes can arise when the noncustodial parent disagrees with the child’s relocation. Without an express agreement, the court will decide whether to allow the relocation based on the child’s best interest standard. However, most states permit the primary custodial parent to move with their child as long as the relocation benefits the child.

New Job

Securing a better job improves financial stability for the primary custodial parent and the child.

For example, if a parent receives a job offer in another state with a higher salary, better benefits, and potential for career growth, the court may view this as a valid reason for relocating the child. The increase in disposable income could lead to a better standard of living, access to better schools, and enhanced extracurricular opportunities for the child, all considered to be in their best interest.


When the custodial parent remarries, the court typically sees this as a positive change, providing more caregivers and additional financial support for the child.

For instance, if the custodial parent remarries someone with a stable job, a strong support system, and a nurturing environment, the court may consider the child’s relocation beneficial. The new spouse’s income could also contribute to a better quality of life for the child, including access to better healthcare, educational resources, and overall support in their development.

Educational Opportunities

Pursuing educational opportunities for the custodial parent can positively impact the child’s well-being.

For example, if a parent is accepted into a prestigious graduate program in another state, the court may view this as a valid reason for relocation. The parent’s advanced education could lead to better job prospects, increased income, and a more intellectually stimulating environment for the child. The child may also have access to higher-quality schools and educational resources in the new location, which would be in their best interest.

Family Connections

Moving closer to family members is often seen as beneficial for the child.

For instance, the court may view this move favorably if the custodial parent wishes to relocate to a state where their extended family resides. Having a strong family support system can provide the child with emotional stability, additional caregivers, and a sense of belonging. The child may benefit from forming close relationships with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, which can contribute to their overall emotional well-being and development.

What Does a Court Consider when Determining Relocation Issues?

Child relocation laws differ among states. Some states have stricter notice requirements, like providing the other parent with written notice of the move. Others may necessitate a formal petition process to modify existing orders. Regardless of state requirements, the relocating parent must prove the move is in the child’s best interests.

Courts may consider several factors when determining if the relocation is in the child’s best interest, including:

Child’s Opinion

Depending on the child’s age and maturity level, the court may consider their preferences when deciding on a relocation.

For example, if a 14-year-old child expresses a strong desire to stay in their current location to maintain friendships, continue participating in sports or clubs, or avoid the stress of adapting to a new school, the court might weigh these factors in their decision. The child’s emotional and social well-being is an important aspect of their best interest, and the court will consider the potential impact of relocation on their mental health and happiness.

Distance of Move

Courts generally prefer shorter or in-state moves over longer distances, as shorter moves typically have less impact on the child’s relationship with the noncustodial parent.

For instance, if the custodial parent plans to move just an hour away, the noncustodial parent may still be able to maintain regular visitation and involvement in the child’s life. In contrast, a move across the country could significantly disrupt the child’s relationship with the noncustodial parent and create logistical challenges for visitation. The court will consider the potential strain on the child’s relationship with the noncustodial parent when determining whether the move is in their best interest.

Quality of Life

When assessing a proposed relocation, the court will examine whether the child’s quality of life will improve.

For example, the court may view the relocation positively if the move offers the child access to better schools, improved healthcare, or a safer neighborhood.

Additionally, the court will consider any potential benefits mentioned in the relocation request, such as increased income, new job opportunities for the custodial parent, or proximity to a supportive family network.

Ultimately, the court will weigh these factors against any potential drawbacks to determine if the move is in the child’s best interest.

Agreement by Noncustodial Parent

If the noncustodial parent consents to the relocation, the court is more likely to approve it.

For example, if the noncustodial parent agrees that the move will benefit the child and is willing to adjust visitation arrangements accordingly, the court may view this as a cooperative effort that prioritizes the child’s well-being. A noncustodial parent’s agreement can demonstrate to the court that both parents work together in the child’s best interest, influencing the court’s decision.

Intent of Relocating Parent

The court will scrutinize the intent of both parents when determining the child’s best interest. Judges will not look favorably upon parents who do not provide adequate notice to the other parent of the move or who attempt to use the relocation to limit the other parent’s access to the child.

For example, if the custodial parent’s primary reason for moving is to distance the child from the noncustodial parent out of spite or to gain leverage in a custody dispute, the court may deny the relocation request. Maintaining a meaningful relationship with both parents is generally considered in the child’s best interest, and the court will aim to protect that principle when making relocation decisions.

Should I Hire an Attorney to Assist with My Child Custody Issue?

Various reasons may lead a parent to seek relocation with their child. However, child relocation often becomes a heavily disputed issue requiring court involvement. The relocating parent must prove the move is in the child’s best interest.

Since state laws differ regarding relocation and child custody requirements, you should contact a knowledgeable and experienced child custody lawyer in your area. A skilled child custody attorney can help you understand your state’s laws on relocation, advise you on the best legal course of action, and represent you in any court hearings or court-ordered mediation, if necessary.

Don’t wait any longer to settle your child custody issue. Use LegalMatch to find a lawyer today.


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