Rights for a Divorced Father When the Mother Wants to Move Away

By Beverly Bird

Parents aren't always equal under the law. In many divorce cases, courts name one parent as the primary custodian of the children and grant the other parent visitation rights. When the custodial parent wants to relocate with the children, this necessarily affects the other parent’s visitation schedule if the move involves some geographical distance. When a non-custodial father is faced with such a situation, he has the right to object and get the court involved. However, judges’ positions regarding relocation issues vary widely from state to state.


No state allows a custodial parent to unilaterally pack up and move away with the children without notice. A custodial mother must usually have either the father’s written consent to the move or, if the father does not consent, then permission from the court. In Colorado, the moving parent must give notice to both the other parent and to the court if she wants to move. She must include a proposed parenting plan for adjusted visitation time with the non-custodial parent after the move. The laws in Texas and Washington require at least 60 days' notice to allow the non-custodial parent ample time to exercise his right to object.

Court Hearings

When a non-custodial father exercises his right to object, courts will invariably order a hearing so a judge can decide the issue. Judges have wide discretion with these matters. Some states, such as Colorado, will give relocation issues top priority and list them for a hearing as soon as possible. Others, such as Virginia, allow a non-custodial father to request that the court assign a special attorney to his child to protect the child’s rights regarding the move. Usually, the burden of proof is on the custodial parent to convince the court that the child will benefit from the move -- and that it’s not merely advantageous to her.

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Fathers who share equal physical custody or interact with their children almost daily usually fare better than fathers with every-other-weekend visitation. They are more involved with their children’s lives on a day-to-day basis, so abruptly depriving a child of that time with his father would not be in the child's best interest. Some states, such as New Jersey, apply a whole different set of criteria to relocation issues when joint physical custody is involved. New Jersey courts will sometimes change custody to the parent who does not want to move if it is determined to be in the best interest of the child. In any state, when a father is the custodial parent and the mother wants to relocate, the courts will allow her to move, but will usually not allow her to take the children with her unless a change of custody is ordered as well.


Both federal and international laws prevent a mother from moving out of state or out of the country with her children without permission. Under the terms of the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, the state the mother left retains jurisdiction over custody issues for at least six months after she leaves. The court in her home state can force her to return with the children until the issue of relocation can be decided there. Countries that adhere to the terms of the Hague convention will return the child to the United States if a mother relocates to one of them.

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California Laws on Parent Relocation


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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.

Missouri Divorce Law on the Custodial Parent Moving Out of State

Missouri is one of the stricter states regarding parental relocation and its courts tend to favor the rights of the non-custodial parent. Gaining court permission to move your children out of state might be an uphill battle if the other parent doesn't give consent, but it's not impossible.

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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