In a child custody situation, if the custodial parent decides to move out of state with the child, this will force the other parent into a long distance relationship with the child. Many times, there is an agreement between the parties, stipulating that such a move can not be made. Of course, this does not always stop an ex-spouse from violating an agreement and moving anyway, often trying to modify the custody agreement in the new state. Also many times, there is no agreement between the parties.
If you are facing this possibility, you should contact an experienced family law attorney immediately. These cases can be extremely bitter and contentious, and the stakes are incredibly high.
Although a situation like this can be extremely nerve-wracking and cause great anger and fear, it is important to remember that there are often valid reasons for the custodial spouse to relocate (employment and family are two common reasons). If you have been on good terms with your ex, you can try simply communicating with them. A mediator can be useful in these cases. An experienced family law attorney can help with mediation. It is important to remember in such discussions that you should keep your focus on the child or children and how this may adversely affect them.
If you can not solve the issue with mediation, you may very likely end up going to court. Courts have not traditionally been very kind to the non-custodial parent in such cases. Moving is considered a right, and courts are not inclined to take away a parent’s right to move. An attorney can help you fight this move. If your custodial agreement allowed for a move of the kind you are looking at, you may need to adjust your expectations and realize most courts these days will not expect your ex-spouse to put his or her life on hold for your visitation rights.
In the case where there is no custodial agreement, however, the court may be more inclined to prevent the move. However, this will be a decision based on what is good for the child or children. Some of the factors the court may consider is the child’s wishes, the ability for the child to grow up in a stable home, the child’s distance from you (a parent), the child’s connection to school and the community. This is another example where an experienced family law attorney will help.
The court will very likely make the moving parent work out a visitation schedule with you, including extended visits during major holidays and school breaks. In the case of joint custody, the court will very likely attempt to keep the child in as stable a home and community environment as possible, meaning the parent who is staying behind may very likely be given custody over the relocating parent. In the case where the child stays with the moving parent, however, costs for visitations will very likely be split, so all the burden doesn’t fall on the party left behind.
As with most legal situations, the first step you need to do is learn your rights as a parent who is staying in the community where the child has been raised so far. It is also imperative to hire an experienced family law attorney. An attorney will not only be able to educate you as to your rights, but will also know how to proceed with your case each step of the way, increasing your chances for a favorable outcome.
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