After a divorce is finalized, most people want to live their lives completely free of their ex-spouse. If you and your ex had no kids together, this is often possible. However, when there are kids involved, you have to consider your ex before making any major life decisions – at least until the kids are 18 and no longer subject to any custody or child support order. One question often asked of family law attorneys is whether one parent can relocate to a different city with the children. The answer to this question is not black and white. Each family is different with unique facts to consider.
In considering a move, the first thing you should do is to consult your final divorce decree or settlement agreement. Often, these agreements have clauses requiring notice to the other parent of any intent to change residence, as well as requiring the parent desiring to move to give complete, updated contact information. The purpose of requiring notice is two-fold. First, it is just common courtesy to inform a child’s parent of where that child will be living so the two of you can hopefully work out a modified visitation schedule, if necessary. Second, it gives the other parent the opportunity to object to the move. This is more common when one parent is attempting to move with the child out of the city and away from the other parent.
The most important thing to consider in planning a move with you children to another city is whether that move is in the children’s best interests. If a move will take children away from their school, friends, and family, this may not be in their best interests. However, if you are moving for a job opportunity that could be great for the whole family, this may trump the fact that your children will have to adjust to a new place.
Whatever the reason for the desire to move, you must consider the children and the impact it will have on their lives. If they are old enough, talk to them about it. As difficult as it may be for you, be open to any wishes they have to remain in the same city with the other parent. The court will consider this anyway if the move becomes a litigated matter. Also talk to your ex to work out a custody and visitation arrangement that will make practical sense after the move. If your children know what to expect and when they will see the other parent, the move will become a bit easier for them.