Relocating With Children After Divorce

Given the mobility of American society, it is not terribly surprising that there has been an increasing national trend towards relocating with children after a divorce.

There are various factors that may motivate custodial parents to relocate with their children after a divorce. Some of the more common reasons why divorced custodial parents choose to move may include:

  • financial necessity
  • job opportunities
  • new romantic partner or spouse
  • family and social support networks

State Laws on the Matter

There is not much evidence regarding the impact of parental relocation after divorce on children. Consequently, state family law courts are put in the difficult position of having to reconcile the competing demands and interests of children and parents in child relocation custody cases.

Most state laws use the “best interests of the child” standard when making a child custody relocation ruling. However, laws regarding relocation of children after a divorce vary significantly from state to state, so it is extremely important for custodial parents seeking to relocate with their children to learn the rules of their state.

Parents who do not follow the proper legal rules and procedures in their state could potentially lose primary physical custody of their children to the other parent.

There are three general legal schools of thought followed by different states relating to parental relocation with children after a divorce.

  • The presumption that child relocation after divorce is not in the best interests of the child, unless the parent seeking to relocate proves that the move will significantly improve the parent and child’s quality of life;
  • The presumption that child relocation after divorce is reasonable, unless it can be shown that it would specifically hurt a child;
  • The favored view in most states is that each case should be analyzed individually, taking a variety of factors into consideration to determine what is in the best interests of the child.

Some states require a custodial parent seeking to relocate to give the non-custodial parent official written notice of the intent to move. The noncustodial parent then has the right to file an objection with the court.

In other states, the custodial parent wishing to relocate must first file a petition with the court seeking permission to move, and the court may grant or deny the custodial parent’s request.

Factors Courts May Consider

The factors a family law court may likely consider when determining whether relocation is in a child’s best interest are:

  • The relative strength, nature, quality, extent of involvement and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent and other significant people in the child’s life;
  • Any prior agreements between parents;
  • Whether disrupting the contact between child and custodial parent would harm the child more than disrupting the contact between child and noncustodial parent;
  • The intent and good faith of each parent seeking and opposing the move;
  • Whether there is an established pattern of conduct of the parent seeking relocation to promote or harm the relationship of the child with noncustodial parent;
  • The age, developmental stage and needs of child;
  • How moving or not moving will impact the child’s physical, educational and emotional development;
  • The quality of life, resources and opportunities available to the child and relocating parent;
  • The feasibility of alternative arrangements to foster and continue the child’s relationship with and access to the noncustodial parent;
  • The feasibility and desirability of the other parent to relocate at same time;
  • The financial impact and logistics of the relocation or its prevention;
  • The child’s preference, taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child.

Legal Assistance

Child custody disputes are probably the most intricate and significant legal issues parents need to resolve during or after a divorce. If you are considering relocating with your children after a divorce, it would be advisable to consult an experienced family law attorney to provide you with legal advice and guidance.

The information on this website is intended as general legal information only and should not form the basis of legal advice of any kind. Individuals seeking specific legal advice should consult a lawyer.


Written by 

New Jersey lawyer turned blogger, podcaster and legal changemaker.