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There are a lot of reasons why a custodial parent would want to relocate: a new job, the opportunity to live closer to family members who can help out, or even just to get a fresh start. But what are the rules?

  • Does the secondary parent have to sign off on the move?

  • Can the non-custodial parent prevent the move from happening?

  • Who pays for the increases in transportation costs that result?

  • And should the offer of longer visits during school vacations be enough to placate the parent who gets left behind?

These are tough questions. In fact, if your fists have begun to clench up just thinking about them, I hope you'll take the time to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

In the meantime, when it comes to the answers to these questions, it's important to know that relocation laws differ somewhat from state to state. For some general guidelines about what you can expect, read the FAQ: Can a Custodial Parent Move Out of State?

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November 10, 2008 at 5:42 pm
(1) Richard jaramillo says:

Great topic Jennifer. Although I have been on the other side of a relationship where I did not have the rights to keep a step child near me; I made every effort and expense to keep my relationship alive with that child.
Single Parents that date and re-marry need to understand how emotionally difficult the seperation can be to all parties. My oldest daughter still keeps in touch with my “ex-step-daughter” and I am grateful that they still keep in touch over the birthdays and holidays despite the distance and other challanges.

November 11, 2008 at 11:03 am
(2) Stephanie says:

Jennifer – this is a tough topic to tackle, and is a major moving target (no pun intended). I just relocated this summer with my son from Colorado. Even though I was the primary parent with sole decision making and primary parenting time, and I put together a very generous offer both in terms of financial support and time, it still was not an open and shut case. Evaluators and judges are very reluctant to allow a move. I knew this would probably be on my horizon because we knew the job market for my area in Colorado was not a strong one even before we divorced, so I did a lot of research and preparation. But the bottom line is that these are never open and shut. We had to go all the way to court. Fortunately, a mother before me had fought her case all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court, where they finally allowed her to relocate with the child. Boulder County had actually tried to force that mom to stay within a certain radius of Boulder. After a long and successful bid, the only advice I really have for people is to make sure they get an attorney who is willing to do his or her homework on relocation and actually believes in the right of a parent to relocate. And make sure you are relocating with good reason that you have documented (I saved job search results from Colorado for three years).

These are the toughest in the landscape of custody law. And different locales are all over the place in how they view relocation – so I strongly recommend you learn the local history in your area and what the most recent supreme court decisions have been in your state.

February 17, 2009 at 8:41 am
(3) thruit says:

I agree…great topic and know the laws. I am a relocator with 3 kids. Moved for family help. My ex agreed to the move but we have set up ways to keep it amicable. 1.. daily calls same time 2. daily emails..updates 3. webcam 4. He gets all major holidays and all summer 5. I finance 2 trips to visit. 6. we send postcards/gifts/letters 7. we hang photos of him and his family.
I have not regretted the move of over 800 miles away for family and job…however it does create an emotional distance you cant fill and would have avoided it if I could have. But we all agreed with my daug being handicapped I needed the family support. In my opinion stay close if you can, if its in the childs best interest to move than do so with all parties in agreement and with as much communication as possible. Keep in mind if the communication was a problem in the marriage itself it may be a problem with the distance too….good luck to anyone dealing with such a hard topic….

September 20, 2010 at 5:23 pm
(4) Britt says:

I am in the middle of a custody battle with my son. My ex husband said that all of my abuse allegations were false and this judge is actually believing him. During this long and brutal situation I met a great guy who loves me and my son unconditionally. My son loves him to death. We are more of a family than I ever had with my ex husband. The decision to move 22 miles away which put my son and I in a different county was my ideal situation. Moving away got me away from my ex stalking me and taking pictures of me whenever he felt like it, but his lawyer has decided to fight. I have been told that if I move out of the county that I will lose my custody battle and my ex will get my son. School districts are not an issue because my son is only two years old. I found the court system telling me that I could not move half an hour away to be out of line to say the least. This move would have 100 percent gauranteed a roof over me and my son, food and a family full of love adn hope. But now we are stuck in a house and not a home that I do not know if it will be there one month to the next.

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