Child Custody Relocation Laws

When the custodial parent moves to another state, it can create many problems in an already delicate situation. The child will be forced to limit his or her physical contact with the other parent.

A dispute can arise between the parties if the custodial parent wants to relocate and the non-custodial parent object to the relocation and there is no agreement between the parents on the issue of relocation. In such cases, the courts will generally decide whether the intended relocation is in the child’s best interest. If the courts find that it is contrary to the child’s best interest, the courts can order the custodial parent to not leave the state. The exact laws on relocations vary from state to state. These laws have specific requirements for allowing relocation including:

Express Consent

In many states, the courts will allow the relocation if there is a parenting or settlement agreement between the parties and the agreement contains an express consent of the non-custodial parent to the relocation of the custodial parent.

Notice and Consent

In some states, the custodial parent must give a written notice to the non-custodial parent about the intended relocation. The state law will specify the notice time period. In some states, the law allows the non-custodial parent to apply to the court to prevent the relocation.


Some states use distance as a factor. For example if the relocation is to a place within the same state or within certain miles, the court may allow the relocation. In most states, the courts generally tend to disallow an out of state relocation.

Good Faith Burden of Proof

In some states, the custodial parent wanting to relocate must provide a good faith reason for the relocation especially if it will affect the child’s educational, social and emotional stability. What is a good faith reason will depend on the circumstances of the case but generally it includes: (1) lower cost of living (2) closer to other family member who can help with child care (3) new job offer and (4) continuing education.

Wanting to move away from the non-custodial parent out of spite is a bad faith reason and the relocation will not be allowed.

In many states, when the non-custodial parent objects to the relocation, the reasons for objection will also be considered. For example if the non-custodial parent objects to the relocation but has never availed of his visitation rights, then the court will rule in favor of the custodial parent.

Visitation Schedule, Travel Costs, and Modification of Child Custody

In majority of the states, the relocating parent must submit a proposed visitation schedule.

Relocation is generally seen as a substantial change in the circumstances. As such the parties can apply to the court for modification of the child custody order. Sometimes, the court may reassess the situation and order that the non-relocating parent be awarded physical custody of the child to maintain stability in the child’s life.

If the relocation results in increased travel cost for the non-custodial parent to exercise his or her visitation rights, in some states the increased expenses must be split equally while in some states, the relocating parent has to bear greater share of the increased expenses. Please consult an experienced child custody attorney near you to know the laws in your state.

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