Divorce Law on Moving Kids Out of State

By Beverly Bird

The issue of moving children out of state either before or after your marriage ends is such a hot button that the federal government has drafted legislation to address it. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act regulates which state has jurisdiction over custody issues if a child moves. States have their own individual laws as well. Although they vary to some extent, you generally can’t move with your kids across a state line without the express written consent of the other parent or a court order.

The issue of moving children out of state either before or after your marriage ends is such a hot button that the federal government has drafted legislation to address it. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act regulates which state has jurisdiction over custody issues if a child moves. States have their own individual laws as well. Although they vary to some extent, you generally can’t move with your kids across a state line without the express written consent of the other parent or a court order.

The Laws

Some states specifically prohibit moving your child across state lines and others base their laws on geographic distance. For example, if you live in Wisconsin, you can’t relocate your child more than 149 miles away from his other parent’s home. In either case, you must either have the written consent of the other parent or file a motion asking the court to allow you to move. If your child’s other parent strenuously objects, this could require a full-blown trial. Generally, you would have the burden of proof to convince the court that your child will benefit from the move.

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Reasoning

Whether your move is 150 miles away or five miles across the state line from New Jersey to Pennsylvania, the court is likely to disallow it if you don't have a good reason and if it grossly interferes with your child’s relationship with his other parent. For example, if he has historically enjoyed visitation with his other parent every weekend, and if you move from New Jersey to California, the move would probably diminish their relationship to a very great extent. Your child might only see his other parent for a few weeks in the summer and on extended school breaks; he’d lose close, frequent contact with him. If you want to move only 40 miles across a state line, the court would be more likely permit the move because it would not have such a great effect on the parent/child relationship. Likewise, if your custody arrangement is such that your child only sees his other parent once a month, a long-distance move would have less of an effect on their relationship.

Burden of Proof

The parent who wants to move generally has the burden of proof to convince a judge that it will benefit the child. This is difficult, but not impossible. If your move is to accept a job where you’ll earn an additional $50,000 a year, that would benefit your child. If you want to move to Florida because you enjoy the beach, the move benefits you, not your child, and a judge would probably rule against it. You can increase your odds of success if you can show the court how and why your child will be better off after the move. You’re also more likely to receive court approval if you can provide a detailed schedule showing how your child and his other parent can maintain close contact despite the move.

Tips

The more positive information you can give the court regarding your child’s new neighborhood, the more likely it is that the court will approve your move. Provide documented information regarding his new school and any social activities that will be available to him. If you’re successful with your motion to the court, and if you move some distance away, be prepared to foot the bill for your child’s travel expenses to visit his other parent. Most judges will require this of you.

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Massachusetts Laws on Moving Children Out of State

References

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Pennsylvania State Regulations About Proximity of Parents to Children in Divorce

Child custody and divorce cases can be highly contentious for both parties. Some parents wish to move away to avoid the stress of contact with the other parent. And, in some cases, the parent may want to move to limit the parent's contact with the child. This can be damaging to the child, and Pennsylvania custody decisions are made according to the child's best interests. Consequently, parents who wish to relocate must follow a specific procedure, and the court will not always permit relocation of the child.

California Child Custody Laws About Moving Away

California, like other states, considers the best interests of the child when making custody determinations. Judges recognize that when one parent moves away from the other, this can interfere with the other parent's visitation rights and prove harmful to the children. Consequently, California has established specific procedures to follow for parents who wish to move away from their child's other parent.

Florida Laws Regarding Relocation After Divorce

No law can prevent an adult from moving if she wants to. If you were divorced in Florida, you can pack up and relocate any time you like -- but you may not be able to take your children. Florida’s laws regarding the relocation of children away from their other parent are specific. You can’t move beyond 50 miles without the express consent of either your spouse or the court.

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