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Family Law Must Now Address Child Relocation Regularly

When parties divorce or separate, they will be forced to make legal arrangements for the custody of their children. The most common scenarios established today are joint custody or sole custody with one parent and visitation with the other.

Both arrangements work well as long as both parties remain in the same geographic area. However, what would happen if a parent with sole custody, or even one with joint custody, decided to move far away from the other party? Let’s take a look at how this can affect each litigant, as well as how the court has chosen to weigh in on the issue.

Should Custodial Parents Be Forced To Put Their Lives On Hold?

Many custodial parents feel that if they were to acquire a better-paying job, or decide to move out of the area to be closer to family, that it is unconstitutional for the court to actually keep him or her from doing so. Many advocates agree, stating that because this is a free country, no court system should have the right to ground litigants in an area where they cannot find work or they do not feel comfortable.

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The same experts also state that asking any responsible person to choose between personal happiness and having custody of his or her children, which many courts are now doing, is asking that person to make an extreme, personal sacrifice either way.

Should Non-Custodial Parents Be Forced To Lose Time With Their Children?

Opponents feel that once a non-custodial party has established a visitation or joint custody arrangement, any type of separation can be detrimental for everyone involved. Even though modern technology allows for daily, face-to-face interaction, non-custodial parents argue that they will lose the opportunity to be “hands-on” parents after a drastic move takes place. They also state that traveling long distances to see their own children can get expensive and result in lost work time. Many even feel that their relocating exes might be leaving purely out of spite.

What Do The Courts Say?

Each state handles this area of family law differently. The common thread that most states agree upon, as with most family law matters, is that all orders should be made in the best interest of the child. Unfortunately, this is not as cut-and-dried as it sounds.

Many states look at the situation by first analyzing the custodial party’s reasons for the move. Usually, if the move directly or indirectly benefits the child more than the parenting time that he or she is losing, then the court will allow it. In other words, the court has to weigh in on whether being closer to extended family, attending an out-of-town school for special needs, or even a pay increase for the person relocating, is more beneficial to the child’s well-being than a few extra hours with the non-custodial party. This can be beyond difficult, as judges will say that there is no “magic formula” for making such decisions.

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