Moving & Child Custody: 3 Important Questions

By Edward Tan, JD on July 16, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Divorce can be tough on children. But moving after you've finally worked out a child custody schedule can be even worse.

Deciding to uproot yourself and/or your children is difficult. However, that's not your only consideration. Following a divorce, many things you used to take for granted can become more cumbersome.

Moving away is one such example. So if you're sharing custody with an ex-spouse, there are three questions you need to consider before packing up.

1) How far away are you moving?

Believe it or not, distance matters. If you're in a shared custody situation, most states require you to check in with the court before you leave. Many also require you to give notice to the other parent, too.

And for good reason. The keyword here is "shared." If both you and your spouse are legally entitled to see your children, taking them far away would obviously affect your co-parent's access.

The laws vary greatly between states. But generally, if you're moving over 100 miles away, you need to give your co-parent at least 60 days notice. However, be sure to check your local laws.

2) Will you take your child with you?

It might sound awful, but some parents do decide to move without their children. Generally, this is the parent without primary custody. However, that's not always the case.

If you're planning on taking your child with you, many states allow custodial parents to restrict the other parent's relocation. Some even allow noncustodial parents to do so, too.

If you're not bringing your child with you, a court will usually have to determine whether the other parent is capable of taking the child in. In either case, the custody arrangement would have to be restructured.

3) Do you need a lawyer?

Child custody disputes are messy, to say the least. The laws tied to moving shared children can be quite complicated, especially when the destination is out-of-state.

Every state has a Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act. This law determines which state retains power over your case. When it comes to child relocation, legal disputes across state lines are common.

So if you're sharing child custody and planning on moving, checking in with an attorney might not be a bad idea.

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