The Tennessee Joint Custody Relocation Statute

By Elizabeth Rayne

Tennessee law does not prevent a divorced parent from moving out of state, but if you have a joint custody arrangement, the other parent may be able to prevent you from taking your child with you. If you move, you will likely need a new parenting plan with an updated visitation schedule, which you may agree to with your ex-spouse. If the parents can't agree on new custody and visitation arrangements, the court may modify the schedule for you or prevent you from relocating the child if it concludes the move is not in the child's best interest.

Notice of Relocation

As a parent with joint custody, you must comply with the notification requirements of Tennessee's relocation statute if you spend intervals of time with your child and are moving either 100 miles away from your ex-spouse or out of state. Send the notification to the other parent by certified mail at least 60 days before moving. In the notice, you must inform your ex-spouse that you are planning to move, the address of the new residence and the reason for moving. Also, the notice must let your ex-spouse know that she has 30 days to file a petition in court to object to your plans to relocate.

New Schedule

After sending the notice, parents have the option to reach a mutual agreement about a new visitation schedule or can go to court and have the judge modify the arrangement. If you are able to reach an agreement, you must ask the court to modify the existing parenting plan. The court will schedule a hearing to review the proposed changes to the plan to ensure they are in the best interests of the child.

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After receiving notice of the plans to relocate, your ex-spouse may oppose the move in court by filing a petition in opposition within 30 days of receiving notice. The moving parent may object to the petition if it was not made in the best interest of the child or is vindictive in nature. In addition to objecting to relocating the child, the petition may ask the court to change the custody arrangement based on the move or have the moving parent pay for transportation costs incurred due to a new custody and visitation arrangement.

Court Considerations

The court will determine if you may relocate the child and how the visitation schedule should be changed based on the best interests of the child. If you spend a greater amount of time with your child than your ex-spouse, the court may allow you to relocate the child only if you have a reasonable purpose for doing so, such as a new job. If you do not have a reasonable purpose, or the court finds that the move is simply to interfere with the visitation schedule, the court may prevent you from relocating the child. Regardless of the original custody arrangement, the court will consider many factors to determine how the parenting plan should be adjusted, based on what is in the child's best interest. Factors may include the ability of each parent to take care of the child and the love, affection and emotional ties between the child and each parent.

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