If you have a minor child at the time of your divorce, you might be subject to a child custody order for ten years or longer until your child reaches majority. The child custody order might place restrictions on your ability to relocate with the child. Even if your court papers do not directly address the issue of relocation, your former spouse might try to prevent you from moving with the child.
North Carolina family law attorneys can advocate for you and explain the 4 things you need to know before you relocate with your child after divorce.
Check the Terms of Your Divorce Papers
Your child custody orders can vary widely within the state of North Carolina. For example, the court might have ordered one of these:
- You cannot move at all without the agreement of the other parent or a court order.
- You can move within 50 miles without the agreement of the other parent or a court order.
- You cannot move out of state without the agreement of the other parent or a court order.
The court might not have addressed the issue of relocation in your child custody order. The first step in the process of evaluating the possibility of relocating with a minor child is to read the terms of your divorce papers. Then you should talk to the other parent, if possible.
How the Court Will Determine Whether You Can Move with the Child
As with many issues involving children, North Carolina courts focus on the best interests of the child. To approach this question, the judge will explore multiple factors from the viewpoint of the impact on the child.
Let’s say that your proposed relocation is for a job with a much higher salary and better benefits than you currently have where you work now, and there are no similar jobs available without relocating. The child would have a higher standard of living and better health insurance if the judge lets you move. In this situation, you would have a good argument that the move would be in the best interests of the child.
The Impact on the Other Parent’s Involvement in the Child’s Life
Usually, the court will consider how the proposed relocation will affect the time that the other parent gets to spend with the child. Judges are hesitant to approve a situation that will deprive the child of meaningful involvement with a parent.
If the other parent, for example, coaches the child’s soccer team and has a close relationship with the child, allowing the parent with primary physical custody to move might not be in the child’s best interest. On the other hand, if the non-custodial parent is incarcerated or already lives at a significant distance from the child, the relocation might have little impact on the child’s relationship with that parent.
You will want to make sure that any agreement you reach with the other parent is in writing, signed by both parties, and dated. If you move without court approval or a written agreement with the other parent, the court could take custody away from you.
What Happens After Relocation
Many people focus entirely on the new job or relationship and the relocation without giving much consideration to how custody and visitation will likely change after the move. If the relocation increases the cost for the other parent to spend meaningful time with the child, the court might require you to pay those travel costs. Sometimes the judge will decrease child support to offset those expenses.
The parenting time schedule usually changes drastically after relocation of a substantial distance. You might lose most long weekends and school breaks to make up for the other parent losing weekly time with the child.
If you are thinking about relocating with your minor child after divorce, you will want to talk with North Carolina family law attorneys to plan your strategy. Contact our office today for a free consultation.