Many parents often question whether or not they can move out of state with their child, especially if their former spouse has visitation rights. In short, if you are the primary custodial parent, you may be able to move out of state with your child. However, whether or not you are able to relocate your child out of state will depend on the child custody laws of your state. It will also depend on whether or not the noncustodial parent agrees with the relocation. 

Typically, most states allow the primary custodial parent to relocate with their child, so long as the move is beneficial to the child. Common reasons that a court may find to be beneficial in the relocation of the child include:

  • New Job: A new job that provides more disposable income for the primary custodial parent is the most common beneficial reason given for relocating a child; 
  • Remarriage: Another common reason given for relocation is that the custodial parent has remarried. Oftentimes this is seen as beneficial, due to the fact that there are more caretakers available for the child. Further, the additional disposable income is also seen as beneficial;
  • Educational Opportunities: Similar to obtaining a new job, custodial parents that are seeking relocation with their child for educational opportunities, such as being accepted into a graduate program, will often be allowed to relocate by courts;
  • Family Connections: Relocating to a different location to be closer to family is often seen as beneficial for the child. 

Often, the noncustodial parent does not agree to the relocation of the child to another state, and disputes over the relocation of the child arise. Without an express agreement with the noncustodial parent for the relocation, the court will have to decide whether or not to permit the relocation. In determining whether to grant the relocation, the court will use the child’s best interest standard

What Does a Court Consider when Determining Relocation Issues?

As noted above, child relocation laws vary among the states. For example, some states have more strict notice requirements, such as requiring the other parent with written notice of the move. Additionally, some states require that the parent seeking relocation go through a formal petition process to modify existing orders. However, no matter what the state requirements are, the parent seeking relocation will have to prove that the relocation is in the child’s best interests. 

The following is a non exhaustive list of factors that a court may consider when determining whether the relocation is in the child’s best interest:

  • Child’s Opinion: If a child is old enough, the court may consider the child’s preference regarding the relocation. For example, a court may consider the child’s preference to remain where they are, in order to not lose friends, miss out on extracurriculars, or change schools;
  • Distance of Move: A court will consider the distance of the move when determining whether the relocation is in the best interest of the child. For example, courts will favor shorter or in-state moves over long distance moves. This is because shorter moves will often have less of an impact on the child’s relationship with the noncustodial parent than long distance moves;
  • Quality of Life: Courts will also consider whether or not the child’s quality of life will improve with the move. This means that courts will look at all of the beneficial reasons for the move, such as educational benefits. Beneficial reasons for relocation were outlined above;
  • Agreement by Noncustodial Parent: A court will look at whether or not the noncustodial parent has agreed to the move. If there is an express agreement that the noncustodial parent is in agreement with the move, the court will likely grant the move; and
  • Intent of Relocating Parent: A court will look at 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. For example, if a parent’s reason to move is to prevent the other parent from interacting with the child, a court will likely not grant the relocation. In general, it is in the child’s best interest to have a continued and meaningful relationship with each parent. 

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

As can be seen, there are many reasons in which a parent may seek to relocate with their child. However, child relocation is often a heavily disputed issue, that requires court involvement. Further,  the parent seeking relocation must be able to demonstrate to the court that the move is in the child’s best interest.

Because state laws vary regarding the requirements for relocation and child custody, it is in your best interests to consult with a knowledgeable and well qualified family law attorney in your area. An experienced family law attorney will be able to help you understand your state’s law regarding relocation. Additionally, they will be able to advise you of your best legal course of action, and represent you in any court hearings or court ordered mediation, if necessary.