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Relocating children during a divorce is a complicated and difficult issue. There is no golden rule to answer this question, or North Carolina child custody law that explains if and how you can move your children if you have become separated or divorced.
As a Raleigh divorce lawyer practicing for over twenty years, I have handled many child relocation disputes. Below I lay out the factors to consider in relocating children in a divorce and how it can affect you.
The short answer to the question is yes, you can relocate children in a divorce under the appropriate circumstances by agreement or with the permission of the court. You can also take your chances that the other parent will not "fight" or will just sit by silently and not enforce their custodial rights, but I feel this is a mistake in 99% of cases. So much depends on the particular facts of your situation.
In some cases, the divorce itself necessitates a party needing to return to their hometown, move for financial reasons or relocate to be with extended family. In other cases, a new job, transfer, or remarriage necessitates a move.
Relocating with Children Before an Agreement or Custody Order
Some parents face relocation issues immediately or shortly after separation and before any custodial issues have been formally resolved, while others face relocation long after custody has been settled and formalized. If you need to move away after your separation and before custody is resolved, you should exercise great care before taking your children away from the other parent. That may sound harsh but that is exactly what you are doing.
There may be very good reasons for moving, and it could be the failure to move would be much worse for your child, however any time a child is moved away from a biological parent, it is essential to handle it the right way.
Do Not Move Your Children Without Discussing with Your Former Spouse or Divorce Attorney
Unilaterally moving children without the consent of the other party or the permission of the Court can prove damaging in any later child custody proceeding and in some cases can result in the other parent obtaining an emergency custody order resulting in your children being forcibly returned to North Carolina.
Parents should consider the following before moving with children in a separation or divorce situation:
- Attempt to negotiate with the other parent a custodial arrangement that allows you to relocate
- If an agreement can be reached, have your Raleigh divorce attorney formalize that child custody agreement in a consent order
- If the parties are unable to agree, consider filing a child custody action in court, and have your child custody attorney push for your right to relocate with the children
- Work with your attorney to gather evidence that supports the idea that the move is in the best interest of the children. This would include evidence that demonstrates the new living environment would be beneficial for your child. Information on the new town, neighborhood, child care, schools, extracurriculars, and family support is crucial in supporting a potential move
- Give considerable thought to the consequences of the move on children. Make certain you are sure it would be in their best interest long term.
- Try to understand that agreeing to allow one's child to move away will not be an easy decision for the other parent. It is going to take some compromise and it is going to be difficult for everyone
- Understand that if your child is close to the other parent and is old enough, you are likely to catch some resentment from your child, either now or in the future
- Consider whether the move is truly beneficial long term, or is just a short term financial necessity. If the issues are largely financial, consider it a bargaining chip and have your attorney seek financial assistance on that basis. This can possibly allow you to stay or assist your case in court later
Relocating Children After Child Custody has been Resolved
If you find yourself needing to move and take your children with you after child custody has been resolved in a court order or through a child custody agreement, you must tread very carefully and make certain that you comply with the terms of your agreement or any court order. Consider the following:
- If custody has been resolved through a court order, any violations of the terms can result in you being found in Contempt of Court which could result in substantial trouble including losing custodial time, fines, and even jail time
- Custodial agreements in contract form, such as in a separation agreement can carry less dramatic consequences for violations, however, you can wind up being ordered to pay substantial amounts of money in attorneys fees, and violating your custodial agreement will reflect negatively upon you in any later custody proceedings
- Review any custody agreements or orders very carefully with your Raleigh child custody lawyer, and ensure that you comply with any notice provisions prior to any move. Some standard agreements allow for moves within certain geographic limitations with proper notice. Others require the parties to attend a mediation session to renegotiate if either party wishes to relocate. The ultimate basis for notice provisions is generally to allow the non-custodial party time to file a child custody lawsuit or seek court intervention prior to the primary custodian relocating with the child
- The easiest way to relocate is with the cooperation and consent of both parents who are working together to co-parent children. If you do not have a good relationship with the other parent, consult with your Raleigh child custody attorney about beginning negotiation with the other parent via letter and hopefully, the attorneys can assist in resolving the issue
- Ultimately, an experienced Raleigh divorce attorney that routinely handles child custody disputes can advise you on the likelihood of successfully seeking court permission to move based upon the particular facts of your case. The final decision would, of course, rest with a Judge, but at the end of the day if the move is in the best interests of the child and each parent can still have a significant relationship with the child, then most family law Judges will allow it
15 Factors Considered in Child Relocation Custody Cases
- The reason for a potential move
- How long have the children resided at their present home?
- Are they in school? How are they doing in school?
- The distance involved in the proposed move and hardships in would present in maintaining present relationships
- Do the children have substantial familial relationships nearby?
- Do the children have substantial social relationships nearby?
- How will any move affect the children's education, social, and extracurricular life?
- What kind of relationship do the children have with the non custodial parent?
- How will the move affect the custodial time and rights of the noncustodial parent?
- Can the parties afford transportation for visitation?
- The overall economic impact of the move
- The current overall quality of life of the children
- The anticipated overall quality of life of the children at the new location
- The educational, social, medical, and extra curricular opportunities at the new location versus the present location
- Many other factors typically considered in evaluating custody cases
In summary, relocating children should always be done only after very careful consideration. Uprooting children from their home and household and everything that they know should only be done if it is abundantly clear that the new opportunity would be better for the children now and in the future.
Try to avoid making decisions based upon temporary problems or for emotional reasons which will likely pass or at least ease in time. The assistance of an experienced Raleigh divorce lawyer is essential to making good decisions and ensuring any potential move is begun on the right foot.
Contact an Experienced Raleigh Family Law Firm
The Doyle Law Group, P.A. is an experienced family law firm, focusing on divorce, child custody, and alimony cases. With a conveniently located office in Raleigh, The Doyle Law Group, P.A. is able to represent many Triangle families.
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