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Making the Move and Child Custody

After all your hard work and dedication, you have finally been offered that dream job you’ve been working so hard for. There is just one thing keeping you from making the move - even though it would financially benefit your family, you have to move away. Deciding to pick your life up and move away from the familiar is hard enough, but parents that have child custody to think about makes it an even tougher decision. In addition to considering all the other factors, determining if you are able to move with your child depends on whether or not you share joint custody with the other parent or if you are the sole or primary custodial parent under Arkansas law.

When you have sole or primary custody.

In this situation, the custodial parent does not have to prove that the move would be advantageous to the child or to him or herself. The opposing parent has the burden of proving that the move would not be in the best interest of the child. Some items the opposing parent would need to address are:

  • The purpose of the relocation.
  • What opportunities will the child gain from the move, such as better education or more financial stability, in which he or she would not be able to get in the current location?
  • Prove that the new visitation schedule with the noncustodial parent would not be in the best interest of the child.
  • The impact on relationships with the extended family would be compromised.
  • In cases, where the child is mature enough, his or her wishes regarding the move will be considered.

I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now, in cases where the opposing parent does not share custody, it is entirely on him or her to prove that the move will ultimately hurt the child.

When parents have joint or shared custody.

In this case, the court sees both parents equally when it comes to decisions for the child. What this boils down to is that the parent wanting to relocate and take the child will have the burden of proving that the move is in the best interest of the child. This would require a custody modification, which is proving there has been a “marital change in circumstances” since the date of the original decree. A petition must be filed to reopen the case and set a hearing date. As long as at least one of the parents still lives in the state, the county where the divorce took place will maintain jurisdiction to make any modifications to the divorce decree. If both parents have moved to another state, then a different court has jurisdiction.

What do the courts look for when deciding on a relocation case?

  • The reasons for the relocation.
  • What type of opportunities will be available to the child if the relocation is granted?
  • How will the visitation schedule and communication be affected?
  • Effects of the relocation regarding the child’s relationship with other family members. For example, in the child’s current city does he or she spend a lot of time with his or her grandparents? If so, would the move be detrimental to the child? This is not to say that the judge will determine the case based solely on the amount of time the child spends with other family members, but if there is substantial reason to believe the child will be affected by the move and what it will do to this relationship, it will be taken into consideration.
  • The child’s preference, presuming he or she is mature enough to make the decision.

The bottom line is that the courts will continue to make decisions based on the child’s best interest as that is always its main concern.

When you hire Kevin Hickey Law Partners we try to cover possible future events such as relocation on the front end when making child custody arrangements. Sometimes though, life just happens and no one can predict what is going to happen several years down the road. Modifications of any kind can be a complicated legal issue pertaining to your unique family situation. If you are currently faced with a relocation decision or child custody modification, it is important to speak with an experienced family law attorney such as myself.