Child Relocation Remains a Difficult Facet of Custody

One of the most difficult and complicated issues to resolve in child custody cases happens when the custodial parent wants to move a child away from an easy visitation distance of the noncustodial parent.

As American society becomes increasingly mobile, as more and more women attain positions in the work force where transfers are frequent and indeed likely, and as more and more noncustodial parents find themselves saying goodbye to children, no jurisdiction has escaped the need to address this thorny custody issue. Courts, recognizing the effects a move has on children, struggle to craft evenhanded arrangements that are fair to both parents.

The relocation of children by the custodial parent (who is often the mother) to places removed from easy visitation by the noncustodial parent (who is often the father) has given rise to movements known as “fathers’ rights” — men who believe they are getting the short end of the stick in the arrangement.

Very often in these cases, the custodial mother asks a court for permission to relocate for the best of reasons — a new job or the prospects of a new marriage. The United States Supreme Court has long recognized that citizens have a right to travel in the nation, and many courts have been guided by this in deciding that a custodial parent has the right to relocate with a child. In many jurisdictions, therefore, the burden of proof is on the noncustodial parent, who must argue that the move is in bad faith. Many courts lean toward the custodial parent on the thinking that what is good for her (in most cases) is also good for the child.

In general, states evaluate relocation requests in ways that range from granting the relocating parent the right to move, to requiring that same parent to prove that the relocation is in the best interest of the child, to a combination of both. In dealing with relocation, some courts seem to be moving in the direction of the best interests standard.

Comments are closed.