Can I move out of state with my child without the other parent's consent?
UPDATED: February 10, 2020
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If custody and visitation have already been decided, you cannot move out if doing so violates a court order or settlement. Sometimes the order or agreement will state that you can’t relocate. Even if it doesn’t say that, if relocating prevents the other parent from getting the custody or visitation to which he or she is entitled, it may be prohibited. An order or settlement can be modified to allow relocation, but this will require going back to court and showing that it is in the child’s best interest and at least minimally fair to the other parent.
Child custody and the question of relocation is one of the most hotly fought battles in family law today. The fact is, if your ex-spouse has visitation rights, but not shared physical or legal custody, they still have parental rights.
The first thing to do when considering relocating with your children is to review your current custody agreement. This is a legal, binding document and oftentimes, the issue of relocation has already been addressed in the agreement. If it has and it is favorable to allowing you to relocate with your and your ex-spouse's children, all you have to do is follow the guidelines that have been spelled out in the agreement. It is extremely important to follow the guidelines as outlined in the agreement. If you violate any of the terms of the custody agreement, violation can adversely affect your move. Relocation directives can be found in your custody agreement, parenting plan, or in the divorce decree itself.
If relocation is prohibited or limited in a way as to be unfavorable to your move or it has not been addressed at all you will have to file a relocation order with the courts. Moving without consent of the court in such a situation is taken very seriously by the legal system. Relocating without the court's consent, if your custody agreement flat out prohibits it, can lead to a kidnapping charge. So be sure to obtain the court's approval.
In making its decision as to whether or not to allow a spouse to relocate to another state with children, the courts will look at a number of factors. The courts will consider the reason for the move, how far away you plan to go, if relocation will result in a better quality of life for your children, how the move will affect visitation, and similar considerations. A court would be more inclined to allow a move for a legitimate purpose. For example, the court will look at a relocation request more favorably if the move is motivated by a desire to be closer to family or for an offer of a better job as opposed to an attempt to get away from the other spouse in a deliberate effort to limit their access to the children.
Finally, if no legal visitation has been ordered, then in such a case, moving should not be a problem as it will not affect the other parents access. Since relocating out-of-state may require court action, you should consider contacting an experienced family law attorney in your area.