Father and happy son on relocation day - near carton box

Can I Relocate With the Children After the Divorce?

Lamb and Lamb, P.C. May 6, 2024

Relocating with children after a divorce represents a major life change both for you and your children. It might be prompted by a job opportunity, a desire to be closer to family, or simply the need for a fresh start.

However, the decision to move is not solely yours to make—especially when custody agreements are in place. Understanding your rights and obligations is the first step toward facing this challenging process. 

Legal Considerations for Relocation 

Relocating with children post-divorce is not as straightforward as packing up and moving. The law requires that the relocating parent consider the impact on the children and the custody arrangement. Most states have specific requirements and legal procedures that must be followed to legally relocate with children after a divorce. 

Legally, a parent wishing to relocate with their children must typically notify the other parent and sometimes also obtain the court's approval. This is especially true if the move will significantly impact the custody arrangement and the other parent's visitation rights. 

Factors Courts Consider 

When deciding whether to allow a parent to relocate with the children, courts will examine several factors, all of which center around the best interests of the children. These factors can include: 

  • The child's relationship with both parents 

  • The reason for the proposed relocation 

  • The educational, health, and emotional benefits of the move for the child 

  • The impact on the custody and visitation rights of the non-relocating parent 

Ultimately, the overriding concern in any court's decision regarding relocation after divorce is what best serves the child's welfare and interests.  

Relocating Within the State vs. Out of the State 

Relocating with children after a divorce presents unique challenges and considerations, especially when distinguishing between moving within the state and moving out of state. Both scenarios require thoughtful planning, but the processes can vary significantly. 

Relocating Within the State 

When planning to relocate within the same state, the legal hurdles might be less daunting, but it's not without complications. The primary concern is the distance of the move and its impact on the current custody arrangement and visitation schedule.

If the relocation makes it significantly more difficult for the non-custodial parent to maintain their regular visitation schedule, the court may need to be involved to amend the existing custody order.  

Generally, such moves require notifying the non-custodial parent and, depending on the custody agreement, might also require court approval. 

Relocating Out of the State 

Moving out of state with children is often more complex due to the potential for drastically altering the dynamic between the child and the non-custodial parent. Out-of-state relocations almost always require court approval, in addition to the consent of the non-custodial parent.  

Steps to Requesting Relocation 

If you are considering relocating with your children after a divorce, there are important steps you need to follow to ensure your move is legal. 

  1. Review Your Custody Order. Your current custody order might have specific provisions regarding relocation. Understanding these provisions is crucial before making any plans. 

  1. Provide Notice. You may be required to provide the non-custodial parent with a formal notice of your intent to relocate. The notice often needs to include the planned new address, the reason for the move, and a proposed new custody schedule. 

  1. Obtain Consent or Court Approval. Ideally, the other parent will consent to the relocation. If not, you will likely need to seek court approval. Be prepared to demonstrate that the relocation is in the best interest of your children. 

  1. Modify Your Custody Order. If the relocation is approved, your custody order will need to be modified to reflect the new custody and visitation arrangement. 

Parents considering relocation should seek legal counsel to ensure compliance with state laws, understand the potential legal ramifications, and explore how best to approach the custody modification process. Relocating without proper legal procedures can result in legal penalties, including changes in custody arrangements or visitation rights. 

Visitation Rights for the Noncustodial Parent 

Maintaining a meaningful relationship with both parents is generally considered to be in the best interests of the child, which is why visitation rights for the noncustodial parent are an essential aspect of custody agreements.  

The different types of visitation include: 

  • Regular Visitation: This allows the noncustodial parent regular visits with the child, such as every other weekend, certain holidays, and part of summer vacations. 

  • Supervised Visitation: If there are concerns about the child's safety and well-being, visits may be supervised by another adult or through a designated agency. 

  • Virtual Visitation: With advances in technology, virtual visitation through video calls or social media allows noncustodial parents to keep in touch with their children more regularly, supplementing physical visits. 

Visitation rights allow the noncustodial parent to spend time with their child, despite not having primary custody.  

Modifying Visitation Rights 

Visitation rights can be modified if circumstances change and it's in the best interest of the child. Either parent can request a court review to increase, reduce, or otherwise change the visitation schedule. Factors such as relocation, changes in work schedule, the child's academic needs, or issues related to the child's well-being can necessitate a reevaluation of visitation rights. 

Professional Guidance Is Key 

Navigating the legal process of relocating with children after divorce can be daunting. Having an experienced family law attorney can make all the difference. 

At Lamb and Lamb, P.C., we understand the complexities of post-divorce relocation. Our team is committed to helping clients in Salem, Danvers, Beverly, Lynnfield, and Peabody smoothly transition through this significant life change. We offer comprehensive legal services to ensure your relocation aligns with legal requirements and serves the best interest of your children. 

Moving forward after a divorce, especially when children are involved, requires careful consideration and planning. From assessing the legal implications to seeking court approval, each step must be handled with care. Trust us to provide the legal support you need during this pivotal time.