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Child Move Away Orders

A child relocation request, more commonly known as a child move away order, is a legal term used in family law court to describe a situation where a person who has custodial rights to a minor child seeks legal permission to move the minor child's residence a substantial distance away from another person who also has custodial rights to the same child.

Note: Usually, but not always, the person with custodial rights to a child in a child move away order is the child’s biological parent. This is true whether or not the child's parents are married, never married, or divorced; however, other persons, such as adoptive stepparents or grandparents, may have custodial rights to a child in certain instances. For more information on custody rights and establishing child custody rights, see Child Custody, Modifying Orders, Juvenile Dependency Law, Stepparent Rights, Father's Rights, Paternity Suits, and Grandparents’ Rights.

Generally, a custodial parent may travel or relocate with his or her child without resorting to a legal battle with the child’s other custodial parent, so long as the parents can agree on the issues. However, when a custodial parent objects to his or her child’s relocation, that parent may file a request for orders (RFO) to establish or modify a child custody order.

Note: A parent does not usually need to file a child move away request if the move is not substantial in distance and the circumstances will not substantially effect the status quo. What is considered a substantial distance varies depending on the circumstances of the parties. When a parent relocates his or her minor child only a minor distance from the child's other parent the parents can usually modify the child visitation schedule (parenting time) to adjust for any beneficial or detrimental impact of the move as it relates to child custody and/or child visitation issues.

How to Obtain Move Away Orders

If custodial parents do not agree on a child’s relocation then the parent who wants to move with his or her child must file a child relocation request with the family law court. In deciding the issue, the court will examine the evidence related to the following factors:

  • The status of any current child custody orders
  • Whether final or temporary orders are in place
  • The change in circumstance requiring a move
  • The status of any child visitation orders
  • The de facto status of child custody
  • The negative impact of changing custody
  • Any negative impact of modifying visitation
  • The distance of the proposed move
  • The reason for the proposed move
  • The child’s need for continuity and stability
  • The child’s extended family relationships
  • The relationship between the parents
  • The parents’ ability to work with each other
  • The child’s needs (i.e. health, school, etc.)
  • The cost and availability of child visitation
  • The child’s connections to the community
  • The wishes of a child of sufficient maturity
  • The parent's ability to keep frequent contact
  • The child’s best interest

Note: If there a final judgment that indicates one parent has sole legal and sole physical child custody then that parent has the presumptive right to change his or her child’s residence regardless of the relocation distance or the reason for the move. This is especially true if the non-custodial parent has little, or very little, child visitation.

When parents share joint physical custody, a family law judge will consider the best interest of the child while assuming that the parent who requested the child move away order genuinely intends to move with the child. Also, the family law judge will look to the actual child custody and child visitation arrangement that is currently followed, regardless of what the court orders are that the parents were supposed to follow. In this sense, child custody is decided de novo (starting from the beginning).

Caution: If a family law judge determines that a child move away is not in the best interest of the child the judge may change legal and/or child custody orders and/or child visitation orders to maintain the child’s best interest in light of the request to move away with a child. This means that a judge may change legal custody from one parent to the other parent if that change in custody would be in the child's best interest in light of the circumstances surrounding the proposed move away request.

Note: Payment of child support does not entitle a parent to child custody or child visitation rights. Also, child custody, child visitation, and child support issues may not be predetermined in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. Any attempt to divest the court of its authority to establish or modify child custody and/or child visitation orders is invalid and unenforceable.

Expert’s Recommendations (730 Evals)

730 Evaluation: In complex child move away cases, the family law judge may enlist the services of an expert, such as a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT), a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or any other licensed professional with expertise in the field related to issue upon which the court seeks the expert's guidance, in order to make recommendation(s) that best serve the child. See 730 Evaluations.

Preparing for Child Relocation Requests

The moving parent should be prepared to answer questions relevant to the relocation request, such as information regarding job security, housing, education, child care, health care, living arrangements, housing availability, community safety, impact on relationships, visitation schedule, etc.

Note: If a non-moving parent is unable to meet the changed circumstances burden to warrant a change in child custody the judge may still award a change in child visitation to minimize the child's loss of contact with the non-moving parent. For example, less visits with a child but more time with a child per visit, or award travel costs to be borne by the relocating parent.

Note: A modification of child visitation time is not required in child move away orders; a family law judge is authorized to make those orders only if it is in the best interest of the child.

To learn more about child move away orders (relocation orders), contact our divorce and child custody attorneys today for a free consultation. Call today!

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Child Move Away (Relocation) Requests / Divorce & Family Law Attorneys

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