Moving a child or children away from one of the parents is an extremely serious matter, with extraordinary impact on all involved. As with any other custody matter, the primary consideration remains the best interests of the child, more factors go into that determination in relocation cases including:
- The reason a parent is seeking relocation
- The reason the other parent is opposing relocation
- The quality of the relationship between child and each parent
- The moves impact on future contacts between child and noncustodial parent, often referred to as whether the move would “deprive the (non-custodial parent) of regular and meaningful access,”
- Consideration of the quality and quantity of contact that would be available to the non-custodial parent
- The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the child and non-custodial parent should the relocation be allowed
- The degree to which the child’s and custodial parents will be enhanced economically, emotionally and educationally
- No single factor should be as so important or given so much weight that it predetermines any outcome.
- There must be a weighing of all factors to reach the decision that most likely serves the best interests of the child
Keep in mind that the Court is not determining whether the custodial parent can move. The custodial parent can do whatever they want to do, they just cannot necessarily do it with the child. Relocation cases are solely a determination of whether the child may move with the custodial parent, or whether custody will be given to the non-custodial parent when the custodial parent moves.
These cases are no always brought by the custodial parent. Non-custodial parents can bring these actions based upon a change of circumstances that tend to indicate a change of custody is warranted, and the non-custodial parent lives elsewhere or has a solid basis for relocation.
You can see that these factors, as with many custody factors, can be extremely subjective. There are no objective factors that can be applied to get the “right” answer. A Judge applies these factors, based on the evidence presented, in a subjective way to reach what that Judge determines, in his or her discretion, what will most likely serve the child’s best interests. This means that you never go into a courtroom or trial in these matters being certain of the outcome.
There certainly are factors that may carry substantial weight on certain factors. If a non-custodial parent has not seen the child, by choice, for two years and has never shown an interest in the child, that surely speaks against the quality of relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent, or much of a need to preserve what is a non-existent relationship. There, too, would not be much of a relationship to preserve, and the basis for that non-custodial parent trying to prevent the move feels more vindictive than substantive. This does not necessarily mean success in the custody relocation, it just speaks to a couple of the factors. Remember, no one factor gets too much weight.
On the other hand, if the non-custodial parent, or even a parent sharing joint physical custody, is fighting the move, that has substance, and maintaining the relationship at its current level will be extremely difficult. The other factors would have to be extremely strong in favor of the move that would override such a strong and constant relationship with the non-moving parent. Though this does not mean the move will be disallowed. Or it could mean that diminishing the quality and quantity of contact with this parent would be so harmful for the child that a move would not be in that child’s best interests.
If you are involved in or want to discuss a custody relocation or other custody matter, please Contact Diana, or call her at 315-565-2760.