Custody & Visitation Law

Moving Out of State and Child Custody

Key Takeaways:

  • When parents have shared custody, one parent can’t move the kids out of state without permission or court approval.
  • If a parent moves out of state, the parents may have to change the child custody and visitation plans.
  • Moving a child out of state without permission could result in criminal charges or contempt of court.

After leaving a relationship with your former partner, you may want to take your children to a new place for a fresh start. However, the child’s other parent still has the right to stay a part of the child’s life. If you want to move with your children, you may need court approval.

Child custody laws are different in every state. You should speak with an experienced child custody attorney in your state for legal advice about relocating with children.

What Happens to a Child Custody Plan When You Move?

As part of a divorce or separation when you weren’t married, parents have to decide on custody and the parenting plan. Courts generally prefer maintaining the child’s relationship with both parents. In some cases, co-parenting may give the parents physical joint custody by equally sharing time with their children. If one parent has primary physical custody, the physical noncustodial parent should have visitation rights. Parents can also have sole or shared legal custody or sole physical custody.

When a parent moves out of state, it can change the current custody plan and visitation schedule. The relocating parent may need to modify the child custody orders if they want to move the child out of state.

The child custody arrangement protects the best interests of the child. The court can consider several factors in deciding how to modify an existing custody order in move-away cases. Moving away can complicate visitation, especially if one parent moves long-distance rather than just an hour away. The court may have to decide:

  • Modified visitation schedule
  • Who pays for the child’s travel costs
  • Phone or video communication between the child and parent
  • Holiday and school break schedules

Can the Other Parent Move Without Permission

Generally, you cannot move your child to another state or new location without written notice or without court approval. Most states require the family court’s approval or written permission of the non-moving parent before moving minor children out of state. If you share joint legal custody or the move affects the other parent’s visitation or parenting time, you will need to show the move is in the child’s best interest.

The court takes violating child custody orders very seriously. A parent who moves the child to another state in violation of court orders could face civil contempt charges in family court, or worst-case scenario, face criminal charges for parental kidnapping.

Does Moving Matter if You Were Not Married to the Other Parent?

If the child’s father has not legally established paternity, the father of the minor child may have limited custody rights or parental rights. However, the father could still file a paternity or custody action to establish the father’s legal rights. If the child’s father has legal paternity rights, it does not matter if the parents were married. Both legal parents have parenting rights.

How Can I Get a Change of Visitation Schedule to Move?

Relocation cases can be a long and complicated process. A family court cannot prevent an adult from moving. The parents can also agree on a change to allow the children to move to a different state.

However, if you disagree about the move or the visitation schedule, the court may have to decide the custody dispute. The court will generally decide any modifications based on the best interests of the children. Any changes should also include a new time-sharing schedule or custody arrangement.

If you have joint physical custody and don’t agree with the visitation schedule, you must return to court to request a hearing about the proposed move. The relocating party has the burden of proof to show that the relocation of the child is in the child’s best interests.

Do I Have to Pay Child Support if the Other Parent Moves Away?

If the other parent moves to another state, it doesn’t change your parenting obligations. State law generally determines child support, and you can’t refuse to pay just because you don’t like the new visitation order. Even if the other parent is trying to stop you from seeing your child, you still have to pay child support. If the child moving to a different state changes your financial situation, you can ask the court to modify your child support.

How Can a Child Custody Attorney Help?

You may want to move to a different state for a new job or to get a fresh start after a divorce. Before picking your children up and moving, ensure you understand your child custody obligations. Check with your state’s child relocation laws and consult with an experienced family law attorney. For more information about your legal rights, talk to a child custody law attorney about your options.

Was this helpful?