Child custody cases can be tense and delicate situations for parents and children. After a custody agreement has been reached, a parent may need to relocate with the children to another city or state. The relocation process is not as simple as picking up and moving. Parents must work with their lawyers to come to an agreement, contest a relocation, or simply give notice of a relocation plan.
How Should I Provide Notice?
The custodial parent must provide notice if he or she plans to relocate with the children. Relocating parents must provide notice of the relocation at least 90 days before the move if ordered by the court. When notice is given, the non-custodial parent has 20 days to argue against the relocation.
Relocation notices, however, cannot simply be placed in the mail. Relocating parents must send notice of a relocation through certified mail with a return receipt requested or as ordered by the court. The relocating parent should ask his or her attorney to send the relocation notice just to be careful, and the parent may ask his or her attorney to write the notice so that it reads properly.
A parent may have a very good relationship with an ex-spouse and may have discussed this relocation in the past. However, that does not mean a parent can forgo formal notice. One must provide formal notice of the move so that an ex-spouse has the opportunity to challenge the move in court.
The notice period can be shortened if giving notice may subject the relocating parent or children to abuse. Additionally, a notice can be shortened if the relocating parent needs to move in less than 90 days for financial reasons or other extenuating circumstances.
If a parent delays the notice, the move will be delayed. One cannot claim that the notice was lost in the mail, and one should not expect that an employer will somehow step in to help. When someone takes a new job or chooses to move, it must be on his or her own accord, and he or she must provide proper notice under the law.
Can Parents Come to an Agreement on Relocation?
Judges prefer that parents can come to an agreement on their own. When parents can reach an agreement about a relocation, they must have that agreement added as an addendum to their divorce decree. Parents need an attorney to submit the appropriate paperwork, and they should ensure that both parents have a copy.
The court will schedule a quick hearing to review the agreement that has been created and that agreement will likely be approved. The judge may have questions for both parents, and the hearing will close with a signed court order stating the new custody agreement and plan for relocation.
Can Parents Object to Relocation?
Parents are allowed to object to a relocation plan at any time. Parents may be concerned about abuse that could occur, the mental stability of the children, or the feasibility of the new visitation plan. Parents who would like to move closer to their children may request more time to plan their own move, or parents may ask their children to give input.
When a parent objects to a relocation plan, the attorney must petition the court within 20 days of the written notice of relocation. The objecting parent is given time to build a case and can explain why the move may not be in the children’s best interests. The two parents may sit down with a mediator to create a relocation plan, or they can go to court where a judge will decide.
It is up to the judge to decide if the relocation plan will be allowed, and several factors will be considered when the two parties cannot come to an agreement.
How Does the Judge Decide?
A judge who is asked to decide whether a relocation plan is appropriate will consider the following factors to make an informed decision:
- If the relocating parent or the objecting parent is capable of caring for the children in a new environment.
- If the children have a preference.
- Personal testimony from both parents.
- Age, gender, and health of the children.
- History of abandonment.
- History of child abuse in the family.
- If the parents have a previous relocation agreement in place.
- Relationship of the children and the parents
- Particular influences in one parent’s home over the other.
- Character testimony on behalf of one or both parents.
Judges have latitude when they make decisions about child relocation cases. If the family is otherwise healthy, the children’s wishes may be taken into account if they are mature enough. Judges may be reluctant to approve relocation plans where abuse, indoctrination, or character testimony shows that the children may suffer because of the move.
When Should I Seek Legal Help?
A parent that needs to relocate should work with an experienced family law attorney who can build a case for the location. Relocating can be stressful for all parties involved, and a lawyer will ensure that the process goes with ease. To make certain that the relocating parent’s rights are protected, it is best to contact a family law attorney right away. As always, the children’s best interests will be considered, and a lawyer will help make that determination.
Towson Child Custody Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Help Parents with Relocation and Child Custody Concerns
Speak with one of our Towson child custody lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC today if you have questions about child relocation and custody matters. We help families with relocation concerns. Call us at 443-589-0150 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland, we proudly serve clients throughout Baltimore, Baltimore County, Bel Air, Bentley Springs, Columbia, Freeland, Hereford, Hampton, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks Glencoe, Parkton, Phoenix, Pikesville, White Hall, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County.