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Child Custody
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Impact of Parental Relocation on Child Custody and Visitation

Parental relocation (when one or both parents move to another city or state) generally requires modification of parents' child custody and visitation arrangements currently in place. Often, because of the objection(s) of the other parent, a parental move can become a complicated legal issue.

Can a Custodial Parent Relocate if the Non-Custodial Parent Objects?

As a general proposition, once child custody and visitation agreements have been agreed to and executed by both parents and the court's order adopting these agreements have been entered, a custodial parent cannot relocate out of his or her current state of residency without making an application to the court to modify the custody order. Of course, if there is no objection to the proposed relocation raised by the other parent, then it is highly likely that no further court order or modification to the parents' existing agreement(s) will be necessary.

Consequences of "Move-Away" Cases

The consequences of "move-away" cases are significant. If a parent moves out of state or a long distance away from his or her current residence and the other parent, and the relocating parent does not seek prior authorization in writing from the other parent for the move or entry of a formal order from the court to grant that parent's relocation, the relocating parent may have to return to his or her prior residence.

Parental Relocation Hearings

In some jurisdictions, such as Pennsylvania, parties must participate in a relocation hearing to determine whether the relocating parent will be allowed to move with the couple's minor child. Parental relocation hearings are affected by a multitude of factors. A sampling of the factors typically weighed and considered includes, but is not limited to:

  • child's relationship with parents
  • reason behind the parent's proposed relocation
  • any reasons the non-relocating parent proposes to attempt to prevent the other parent's relocation
  • impact of proposed parental relocation on child's well-being and overall quality of life
  • any hardship the non-relocating parent may face in carrying out his or her rights under shared custody and visitation arrangements after the move.

In some situations, true and bona fide emergencies arise, and it may also become necessary to seek temporary court orders to either allow or prevent the relocation of one parent until the court is able to arrive at its ultimate decision. Because of these consequences and impacts, it is prudent to consult legal counsel to discuss the impacts of a job, marital, or other form of relocation on existing parental rights, child custody and visitation agreements.