After a divorce, sharing custody of the kids with an ex-spouse will be made much easier when you are both living relatively close to each other. This naturally makes drop-offs and transfers much easier. Plus, when the kids have activities, it isn’t such a trek to get to see them. However, this is just not doable for many families who have work or family considerations away from their divorced spouse.
The courts take relocation and the distance of each parent from each other very seriously when considering custody. If one parent has primary custody, it will not simply mean a judge will allow a move that takes the children farther away from the other parent.
How custody works
The courts will always take the best interest of the children into the highest consideration when it comes to custody and visitation. Here are some of the factors a judge will use to determine the best custody arrangement:
- The desire for each parent to have custody
- The wishes of the child
- The relationships between the child and each parent, including others that may be living with that parent
- The mental health and physical condition of the child
- The history of care from each parent for the child
- If either parent or a person living in the same home of the parent has a history of crimes or domestic violence
When one parent wants to move far away
If a move is eminent with one parent, a judge will most likely determine if the new location of the parent will provide harm to the child due to the loss of the relationship with the other parent. The courts will generally consider modifying a custody order if it is determined that the existing order may bring harm via physical or emotional abuse to the child by staying where they are with the other parent.
If one parent wants to move when a custody agreement is already in place, a judge is not able to order the parent not to go. What the court will do is decide if it is in the best interest of the child to move with that parent. If the judge determines that a move with the parent is satisfactory, the judge can include safeguards in the new custody agreement that allows the child to keep a good relationship with the other parent. This can include longer holiday stays or even extended summer visits. This can be on top of having regular phone calls, which can include things like Skype or FaceTime.
Judges are usually very sensitive when a parent requests a move with a child that will take them farther away from the other parent. A judge may look at the motive of the move, for example, if the parent wanting to move with the child has a history of keeping the child away from the other parent. In that case, the judge may deny the move. In fact, if the moving parent has shown a history of denying time for the other parent to be with the child, the judge could decide to change primary custody to the other parent.
Finally, the reason for why the parents wants to move will also prove to be a major consideration for the judge. A move just for a change of scenery may not be met as positively as a move for a job or to be closer to family.
There will usually be many factors that go into the decision to change custody for one parent to move away from the other parent. If you are in the situation that either you or your ex-spouse plan on moving, leaving considerable distance between your child and each parent, you should consult with a family law attorney right away.