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Impact of Custodial Parent’s Relocation

Americans have traditionally been a highly mobile people. In an era in which issues related to the custody of minor children are focal points in a substantial number of divorce proceedings, the ramifications of such a tradition of mobility can create a number of complex problems when the custodial parent, the former spouse to whom the court in a divorce proceeding has given custody of the minor children of the parties, chooses to relocate from one jurisdiction to another, or merely to a place within the same state that is a substantial distance away from the place of the marital residence. Courts are often called upon to resolve disputes between the parties over the questions of custody and visitation that are implicated by such choices.


If a non-custodial parent objects to a proposed relocation by a custodial parent, such an objection may take a number of forms. The non-custodial parent may attempt to obtain an order from the court having jurisdiction over the divorce and related proceedings that will bar the custodial parent from making the move with the child, or he or she may seek to obtain an actual change in custody. The court deciding such a dispute may consider, among other things, the terms of the parties’ divorce decree and the reasons for the proposed relocation. In considering how to resolve such a case, the court will at all times keep in mind the fundamental principle that guides every decision related to child custody, whether the action proposed to be taken is in the best interests of the child. State statutes governing family law matters sometimes contain provisions dealing with the criteria a court should employ in deciding issues related to the relocation of a custodial parent.

Family law in the United States, including the legal principles dealing with issues of child custody and visitation, has developed out of the separate legal systems of each of the states rather than out of a single unified body of federal law. As a result, the legal standards governing issues arising from the proposed relocation of a custodial parent will vary from state to state, and will be found in the state statutes covering family law matters and in the decisions of courts dealing with such issues.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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