Can my former spouse move out of state and take our child? The question is all too familiar to many individuals who have gone through a divorce. Initially, maybe both parents lived reasonably close and custodial arrangements were relatively simple. But what happens when one spouse gets a job out of state, gets remarried and is compelled to move, or simply chooses to start life over someplace else? What if your ex moves out of state, or just further away without your knowledge or without changes in the visitation agreement? In these situations, an experienced family law attorney might be worth calling.
Child Custody Arrangements – Moving out of State
Physical custody of children in a divorce can either be joint or sole. If the spouse who is moving out of state has sole physical custody of the child, it is presumed any move would involve the child. That being said, both parents must work through an agreement as to what new visitation will look like. This might be done through mediation, but, if that method is unsuccessful, the court will have to make a determination. The spouse who is moving may have to agree to longer visits for the non-custodial parent, and the non-custodial parent may have to live with far fewer visits.
In a joint custody situation, the bottom line is the same. While the court cannot prevent either parent from moving, it can definitely rule against taking a child if the disruption is considered too severe.
Remember, the best interests of the child are always the court’s bottom line. That means considering several issues:
- The relationship of the child with each parent;
- The relationship of the parents with one another;
- The relationship of the child with siblings and step- or half-siblings;
- The degree to which visitation is currently utilized;
- Whether or not the move is designed to restrict access to the child;
- School, routines, etc.;
- The wishes of the child, depending on the child’s age;
- Quality of life for the child.
Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
What if the parent who moves wishes for the court in the new state to make custody rulings? The UCCJEA has been adopted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It lays out the circumstances under which the court may make a decision regarding custody, and when another state must accept that decision. The general expectations are:
- It is the child’s home state, and the child has lived there for the previous six months and has noteworthy connections to the community through schools, medical visits, and/or family;
- The child is currently in the state and is at risk of abuse or neglect if sent back to another state;
- Another state does not meet the criteria above, or has declined to make any custody decisions.