Many people consider a move after a divorce, but whether that is in your best interest depends on many factors. In cases involving minor children and child custody, moving could be detrimental or at least complicate matters.
The Advantages of a Move
After a divorce, some moves happen because of a new spouse, a new job, or to be closer to family. Moving out of the marital home can have its advantages and be a fresh start. The home you shared together is a symbol of the time you spent married, and it may be necessary to move out to signal the end of that time and the beginning of your new life that is just starting. The marital home will always be full of marital memories, and it can be important to make a clean break. Moving into a new place signals independence and is an indication that life moves on.
How Will Moving after a Divorce Affect Child Custody?
If you are eager to move out and start over somewhere in a new location after a divorce, that can be a problem if minor children are involved. It should be stressed that every case is unique, and every family is different. In an amicable divorce, it may be possible to work out an arrangement that works for everyone. However, in a high-asset divorce in which the children have become pawns, your ex-spouse may use the move against you.
There are two types of custody: legal and physical. Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions regarding a child’s health, education, and welfare. Physical custody refers to the right and responsibility of caring, keeping, and supervising the child. After a divorce, the court will decide both kinds of custody based on the best interests of the child. Many parents share legal custody of their children, but physical custody can be arranged in many ways depending on the laws of the state and the circumstances of the divorce.
Once physical custody has been decided, any changes to the arrangement must be made through the court that issued the original custody order. Modifying the existing custody order can be difficult, especially if your ex-spouse is not happy about your relocation plans. If you are the custodial parent, trying to move with your children out of county or out of state without the court’s approval could get you a contempt of court order complete with fines and jail time. The judge could even change the custody arrangements and give the children to your ex-spouse.
What if I can Work it Out?
In the best-case scenario, both parents can agree about the move, and the child moving, and create a new custody arrangement that gives the noncustodial parent enough time together with the child despite the new location. If the parents both sign a written agreement, called the stipulation and consent agreement, the judge may turn it into a court order. Mediation or a co-parenting counselor can be helpful in reaching custody agreements and avoiding court. However, if no resolution can be achieved, the parent who is moving will have to file a petition in court asking for permission to relocate.
How Should I Prepare for the Relocation Hearing?
At the relocation hearing, the court will want to know how your move is in the best interest of the child. Therefore, you need to present the kind of information that prove the benefits of moving. Perhaps quality of life will improve for your family, the environment will be more stable, or you will have more extended family members close by to be a part of your child’s life. For each of these reasons, you will need to offer tangible evidence to persuade the judge:
- If you are relocating because of a new job, cite the new salary and benefits to show how your financial situation will improve and be more stable for the family. If the relocation is to save on living expenses, show how much money can be saved through the move.
- If you are moving to be closer to family, explain how many family members will be there in the new location to support you and your child and the close relationships your child has with their relatives.
- If you are moving because of a new marriage, provide reasons in addition to the marriage about why the relocation is beneficial for everyone. This could include a stable family unit, a better financial situation, a better home, and other advantages.
- If you are relocating to get a fresh start, emphasize all the positive effects that it will have for your child. Refrain from talking about the need to distance yourself from your ex-spouse, as this is generally never viewed as beneficial for children. Concentrate on all the advantages for your child in the new location such as better schools, medical services, a safer environment, and anything else that can support your case.
The court will consider any potential benefits of the move and weigh them against any possible negative effects resulting from reduced contact with the noncustodial parent. To that end, you should prepare a proposal for a new plan for co-parenting your child that takes the move into account and shows you are prepared to help maintain a close relationship between your child and your ex-spouse. If your move makes weekly visits too difficult or impossible, offer the time during school vacations and the summer break. With technology, regular access via phone, email, and video communications is possible and should be encouraged. If your ex-spouse is willing and able to travel to your new location, show the court that you are open to providing a reasonable number of visits.
Be detailed and thoughtful about proposing a parenting plan and how your plan will be executed. If the child needs to drive or fly back and forth, show how the driving responsibilities or cost will be shared. Make a schedule of visits that you think is fair and be prepared to be flexible about changing it to suit everyone’s needs. You should also clearly state your intentions to keep your ex-spouse involved and up to date with all the details of your child’s health, education, and activities.
A family law attorney who also practices mediation can be helpful in the delicate matter of relocation after a divorce. Working with a third party can reduce the emotional factor and aid in resolving issues quickly and reasonably in the best interests of the child.
Towson Divorce Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC can Help You Modify a Parenting Plan
Moving after a divorce brings up issues with the children involved. The Towson divorce lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC can answer all your questions about relocation, child custody, and modifications to parenting plans. Our experienced and compassionate legal team can give you the help and support you deserve. For more information and a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 443-589-0150. Located in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland, we serve clients throughout Baltimore, Baltimore County, Bel Air, Bentley Springs, Columbia, Freeland, Hereford, Hampton, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks