Child Relocation
Summary in Divorce

Modern American life, with its abundant opportunities for fresh starts and new beginnings, means that minor children of a failed marriage often move far from home.

The relocation of a child makes custody volatile, particularly when a child is removed a great distance. Relocation of a child often causes the noncustodial parent, usually the father, to drift away from the life of his child. It has also incubated a movement known as "fathersí rights" because men often come to believe they are victims of divorce when they are cut off from their children.

In the relocation of a child, courts balance the custodial parentís constitutional right to travel against the stateís responsibility to protect the child. A good faith move by a custodial mother that does not adversely affect the best interest of the child will be approved by most courts, particularly when the mother is the sole custodial parent. In this, the courts apply the logic of what is called the "real advantage" theory, which holds that a move that is good for the parent is good for the child, for example, when it is in conjunction with a career move or a new marriage.

In general, courts permit the custodial parent to relocate with the child if 1) the relocation is being done in good faith; 2) the childís best interest is not adversely affected, and 3) the other parent can maintain a relationship with the child after the move. In practice, in order to oppose relocation, the noncustodial parent must demonstrate that the move is not in good faith and not in the best interest of the child.

Many couples with children attempt to live in proximity at the onset of their divorce, so the issue of relocation -- generally defined as more than an excursion distance, or 100 miles -- comes up after the parents have been divorced for some time.

If at all possible, it is best for the parents, not the court, to work out child custody, including relocation.

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