No matter how long ago, or how recently, your child custody agreement was finalized, life changes.
And because you couldn’t have predicted the future when your agreement was being drawn up, it doesn’t account for the fact that you now want to move to another state.
Before you pack your bags and go apartment-hunting, there are some things you need to understand about what your relocation means for your current custody situation:
If You Are the Non-Custodial Parent
Moving as the non-custodial parent can be fairly easy.
You tell your ex you’re moving and, depending on how old your children are and how far away you plan to move, your custody situation shifts to accommodate that.
Say, for example, you plan to move several hours away from where your children reside. That could mean that you trade your current every-other-weekend plan for a week at Christmas and a month in the summer.
As long as you and your ex can come to a mutually agreeable compromise, the only thing the court needs to get involved in is signing off on your new parenting plan.
However, if you don’t agree on the circumstances of your new parenting plan, such as you want more time than your ex is willing to give, you may need to seek mediation of your case or it could go before a judge.
If you are moving within a reasonable driving distance of where your children currently reside, your schedule may not need to change at all, provided you can still maintain your current plan. Just be aware that you may be required to do all transporting of your children for visits because you are the one who moved away.
If You Are the Custodial Parent
Relocating as the custodial parent is far more complicated and can take a great deal more time.
The first step in relocating is to notify your ex of your plans to move as soon as possible. Because the process of negotiating a relocation can take quite a while, it’s best to give your ex at least 60 days’ notice of your intentions, but more is always better.
If you and your ex agree on a new child visitation schedule, then you’ve cleared one hurdle. However, your case will still need to go before the judge and have the move approved, as well as your new paperwork entered into the record.
In these situations, where both parties agree to the relocation and the way that relocation will impact the children’s lives, courts rarely stand in the way.
However, if your ex objects to your relocating, you’re in for a much more complicated process.
In these situations, you have to prove that your move is in your child’s best interest. Having a new job that pays more or moving to be with a new significant other who can provide more for your child isn’t always enough; there typically need to be more positives to your move to get the court’s easy blessing.
If your discussions with your ex have broken down and they flat-out refuse to allow your move, then you may be ordered into mediation.
The mediator may work with you both to come to a mutually agreeable solution. This could mean that your ex gets larger blocks of time with your children, such as over holidays and during the summers, in exchange for the time they will lose by you moving.
Should mediation not work, you will appear before a judge.
At this time, you will both present your cases. The judge may ask you questions or interview witnesses. Ultimately, the judge makes the decision of whether or not you are allowed to move with your children and what your custody situation will look like after that move.
In some cases, the judge may allow you to move but not your children, meaning a reversal of custody. Talk with your attorney about this possibility and whether or not you are willing to live with this potential outcome.
Compassionate Parent Relocation Attorney in Washington, D.C.
No matter your relocation situation, having the counsel and guidance of a compassionate attorney experienced in parent relocation cases is vital to a favorable outcome. At Lopez Law Firm, we have years of experience working with parents looking to relocate from the Washington, D.C., area, and can help you understand what to expect in your individual situation. Schedule your consultation today!