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Child Custody Relocation FAQs

1. What is child custody relocation? How far do I have to move before it is considered child relocation?

Relocation means a change in the location of the principal residence of a parent or other person from his or her principal place of residence at the time of the last order establishing or modifying time-sharing, or at the time of filing a pending action to establish or modify time-sharing. The change of location must be at least 50 miles from that residence and for at least 60 consecutive days not including a temporary absence from the principal residence for purposes of vacation, education, or the provision of health care for the child.

2. When will a court permit a child custody relocation to take place?

In reaching its decision regarding a child relocation, the court evaluates all of the following factors:

  1. The nature, quality, extent of involvement, and duration of the child’s relationship with the parent proposing to relocate with the child and with the non relocating parent, siblings, half-siblings, and other significant persons in the child’s life.
  2. The age and developmental stage of the child, the needs of the child, and the likely impact the relocation will have on the child’s physical, educational, and emotional development, taking into consideration any special needs of the child.
  3. The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the non relocating parent and the child through substitute arrangements that take into consideration the logistics of contact, access, and time-sharing, as well as the financial circumstances of the parties, whether those factors are sufficient to foster a continuing meaningful relationship between the child and the non relocating parent, and the likelihood of compliance with the substitute arrangements by the relocating parent once he or she is out of the jurisdiction of the court.
  4. The child’s preference, taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child.
  5. Whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for both the parent seeking the relocation and the child, including, but not limited to, financial or emotional benefits or educational opportunities.
  6. The reasons each parent is seeking or opposing the relocation.
  7. The current employment and economic circumstances of each parent and whether the proposed relocation is necessary to improve the economic circumstances of the parent seeking relocation of the child.
  8. That the relocation is sought in good faith and the extent to which the objecting parent has fulfilled his or her financial obligations to the parent seeking relocation, including child support, spousal support, and marital property and marital debt obligations.
  9. The career and other opportunities available to the objecting parent if the relocation occurs.
  10. A history of substance abuse or domestic violence by either parent, including a consideration of the severity of such conduct and the failure or success of any attempts at rehabilitation.
  11. Any other factor affecting the best interest of the child.

3. When can parents agree to child relocation?

If the parents agree to the relocation of the child, they may sign a written agreement that reflects their consent to the relocation, defines a time-sharing schedule for the non relocating parent, and describes, if necessary, any transportation arrangements related to time-sharing.

If there is an existing cause of action or a judgment pertaining to the child’s residence or a time-sharing schedule, the parties shall seek ratification of their agreement by court order without the necessity of an evidentiary hearing unless a hearing is requested, in writing, by one or more of the parties to the agreement within 10 days after the date the agreement is filed with the court. If a hearing is not timely requested, it shall be presumed that the relocation is in the best interest of the child and the court may ratify the agreement without an evidentiary hearing.

4. What happens if I bring about a child custody relocation without entering into an agreement or going to court?

Relocating the child without complying with the requirements of the law may subject the party involved to a finding of contempt of court, proceedings to compel the return of the child, and may be taken into account by the court in making a determination as to the appropriate time-sharing schedule for the child.

A court can look at the impermissible relocation as:

  1. A factor in making a determination regarding the relocation of a child.
  2. A factor in determining whether the current time-sharing schedule should be modified.
  3. A basis for ordering the temporary or permanent return of the child.
  4. Sufficient cause to order the parent seeking to relocate the child to pay reasonable expenses and attorney’s fees incurred by the party objecting to the relocation.
  5. Sufficient cause for the award of reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, including interim travel expenses incident to time-sharing or securing the return of the child.