When you receive notice that your co-parent is planning to move, it’s common to feel concerned and uncertain. If you and your co-parent live close to one another you no doubt have developed a routine of parenting time, children’s activities, and division of labor. A move could change things. Now what?
The first thing to do is to resist the urge to panic. If you are receiving a legal notice of relocation, read it carefully to learn the details about where your co-parent wants to move and whether there will be a need to change the current parenting plan. Not all moves require big changes although small changes to routines could be on the horizon. If you are not receiving a formal legal notice, but are instead getting a text message, email, or phone call, be sure to gather information about where and when the move is contemplated. You and your co-parent may be able to discuss and agree on adjustments to your parenting plan to make things work. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to bring your attorney into the loop so that your parenting plan can be formally adjusted. This protects your right to rely on the schedule and details you have worked out with your co-parent.
If the move is a significant distance and you oppose your children making the move, be sure to contact your attorney immediately to start the process of asking the court to review the proposed move and modifications to your existing parenting plan. No court process happens overnight, so it’s important to get the process started right away and before the move is scheduled to occur.
In a dispute about a proposed move, the relocating parent has to prove that the move is being made for a legitimate purpose. The reasons behind the proposed move can include job changes, remarriage, moving to be closer to family, or any number of other reasons. It’s up to the court to determine if the reason is legitimate enough to justify moving children to a new community. If the relocating parent is able to demonstrate a legitimate purpose for the move, the parent who opposes the move must prove that the move is not in the best interests of the children. This involves the application of a specific legal standard, so it’s best to have the assistance of an attorney through this process.
There are several possible outcomes to litigation about a proposed move. The court could allow the relocation and could make a new parenting time schedule. The court could disallow the children to move (even if the relocating parent moves anyway) and this could also lead to a new custody order and parenting time schedule. The court could disallow the children to move, and the relocating parent could cancel the move, which means the current parenting plan likely remains in place. It’s also possible that parents can negotiate a new parenting plan which allows the children to move but tries to preserve for the nonrelocating parent as much parenting time as possible. Negotiations can include a time schedule, travel arrangements and travel costs. Negotiations are often focused on school break periods and the children’s ability to travel and spend large portions of school breaks with the nonrelocating parent. It’s important to think outside the box to try to come up with a schedule which allows your children to experience normal childhood while still spending valuable time with each parent.