Divorce proceedings often become more complicated whenever children are involved. Extra steps need to be taken to ensure the safety and well-being of the children, and that includes custody arrangements. But what happens if, after the divorce has been finalized, the parent who received physical custody wants to move away from their town or state?
Sole or Primary Physical Custody
While not easy, there are fewer legal hoops to jump through if the parent attempting to move with their children has sole or primary physical custody. In these cases, the parent attempting to move needs to file their relocation case with the court. If the noncustodial parent wants to contest the move, they need to file a file an attempt to block the move. When deciding on whether or not to grant permission to move, the burden of proof rests on the custodial parent to give valid reasons for the move:
- A new marriage
- Guaranteed acceptance into a new educational program
- A guaranteed Job opportunity with similar or increased income, or expected chance for improvement
- Moving closer to extended family who can assist in supporting the family though child-care or some other means
These factors are in place in hopes of preventing moves based on spite, where the custodial parent is attempting to move far enough away from their ex-spouse to limit their visitation time. The court will weigh these potential benefits against potential adverse effects caused by reduced or limited contact with their other parent.
If the courts determine that the custodial parent has valid reasons to move, then the burden of proof rests on the noncustodial parent to prove that the move will have other adverse effects, including any emotional or psychological effects. The court will always base their decision on what the best interest of the children is.
Alternating, Shared, or Joint Physical Custody
In cases of joint, shared, or alternating custody, the court will factor in whether the custody is legal or physical. In cases of joint legal custody, they will require a new custody plan that will facilitate the children staying in contact with their noncustodial parent.
In cases where the joint, shared, or alternating custody is physical, the court may treat the relocation request as a request for a change in custody. In order to determine whether or not to treat the request as a change in custody, the court can take several factors into account to determine the extent of the shared physical custody:
- Who is primarily responsible for transporting the children to and from school?
- Who primarily attends the children’s extracurricular activities?
- Who primarily assists the children with homework?
- Who primarily prepares the children’s meals?
- Who primarily cares for the children overnight?
- Who is primarily responsible for the child’s medical needs?
If the courts determine that it is appropriate to treat the request as a change in custody, they will then look for what outcome is in the best interests of the children. Similarly to sole physical custody cases, the potential adverse effects of moving are taken into account. If the courts determine that the emotional and/or psychological effects on the children caused by uprooting them from their current school and social lives outweigh the benefits of a potential move, they can alter the custody agreement to give sole physical custody to the parent who isn’t moving.
Attempting to move after a divorce, whether you have sole physical custody or not, can be an incredibly convoluted process. Our Tampa divorce attorneys have the skills and experience necessary to assist you in navigating any potential confusion, so call us today at (813) 336-3348, or go to our website to fill out an online case evaluation at no cost to you.