A mother who wanted to move her kids 90 minutes from their father, who shared joint custody, couldn’t do so without the court reviewing the children’s best interests, a South Carolina appeals court recently ruled.
The couple divorced in June 2014 and had joint legal custody and joint week-to-week physical custody of their two children. Neither parent paid child support, although the mother, who apparently earned more money, provided medical insurance and childcare costs. The order also barred either parent from having their children overnight in the presence of members of the opposite sex.
A year after the divorce the mother moved to Columbia, S.C., with the children and got a temporary court order granting her physical custody, finding that the move was for legitimate purposes and that she would be able to make more money in a new job there.
But the Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the move constituted a “substantial change in circumstances” that required the court to first determine if the move was in the children’s best interests.
As the court pointed out, both parents had loving relationships with the children and while the move was supposed to financially benefit the children, this ultimately didn’t occur when the mother didn’t return to her new job after a medical leave. Additionally, a court-appointed representative noted out that the mother had overnight visits with her boyfriend in the kids’ presence, counter to the initial order, which called into question whether the move was actually in their best interests. Further, relocation made compliance with the original order impossible, the court said.
The law may differ from state to state. If relocation is an issue between you and your ex-spouse, talk to an attorney near you.