People move for a lot of reasons. Maybe you have an awesome career opportunity in a distant city or you either want to be closer to a new romantic interest or live in an area where you’ve got better odds of finding one. Perhaps you’re a city girl who’s sick of living in the sticks or a country boy who can’t stand the hassles of urban life. Maybe you want to be near the beach or really good skiing.
But whatever your reason for relocating might be, a big move can be a lot more complicated if you’re divorced with kids. If you’re in that boat, it’s important to be aware of certain issues that can arise and talk to a family law attorney about how best to address them.
The biggest issue to consider before relocating is how the move might affect your parenting plan. If you’re like a lot of divorced couples living in the same area you very likely share parenting time. Perhaps it’s joint custody split right down the middle where the kids spend half the week with you and half the week with your ex-spouse, or maybe your ex has the kids one night a week and every other weekend. If you’re moving, say, 250 miles away, your arrangement will no longer be feasible. In that case, your relocation will require modification of your custody agreement.
If you have an understanding ex-spouse and you’ve maintained an amicable, trusting relationship after the divorce, you may be able to do this by mutual agreement. But in the event that your ex puts up roadblocks, you could end up in court. If that happens, a judge will have to decide whether the move is in the best interest of your children. This means you’ll need to make a strong case about a number of things.
For example, you’ll need to have a very good reason for the move. Let’s say you’re moving for a new job. A court may look more favorably upon relocation if you can show that this is going to dramatically improve the financial situation for your kids, opening up better opportunities and providing them with a higher standard of living. This might require proof of a higher salary, better benefits and a lack of decent opportunities in your field where you live.
What if you’re moving to be closer to family? Maybe you have no family where you currently live, resulting in a very limited support system. If you can demonstrate that you’ll have a stronger support system where you’re moving, and make a specific showing of how your kids will benefit by being closer to grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, this can help your case.
If you want to relocate because you’re getting remarried, that alone isn’t likely to convince a judge to sign off on the move. But if you can show specifics about how the new living situation will help your children — perhaps a better financial situation, a more stable family unit or additional emotional support — you may be in a stronger position.
Maybe you’re moving because you simply want to give yourself and your kids a fresh start in a new location. In that case, it’ll be harder to counterbalance the negatives of pulling your children away from their other parent. But the more evidence you can provide that it’ll be in your children’s best interest — for example, the new location might have better schools, better health facilities or more enrichment opportunities — the stronger position you’ll be in.
Beyond being able to justify the move, you’ll need to be able to convince the court that it won’t harm your kids’ relationship with their other parent. This requires a showing that you’re committed to having them maintain strong ties with your ex-spouse. You should be prepared to be flexible on summer and school vacation time and be as helpful as possible with the logistics of getting the kids back and forth, whether by car or by plane.
Along these same lines, if your spouse is willing to travel to see your kids regularly, you’ll need to be accommodating in terms of providing access. It’s also important that you show a willingness to give your ex plenty of contact with your kids via phone and through apps like FaceTime and Skype, and that you’re committed to keeping him or her fully informed about your children’s education, health, extracurricular activities and athletic endeavors.
These are all complicated issues, so it’s a good idea to start addressing them as soon as you start thinking about relocating. Talk to a family law attorney on how to best manage them.