Relocating a Child — Custody Issues

See more child custody & support related topics

Not everyone stays in the exact same place forever. Life for parents and children consistently pushes forward through the toddler stage, elementary school, and then the often volatile but also heartwarming teenager years.

Relocating a child can be an overwhelming process. When you are the custodial parent of your child, meaning you have full or a majority of physical custody, you may feel like you have the right to take you child with you wherever you move. You are the primary parent, so you should not have to ask for permission. However, this stance on the matter is contrary to North Carolina law. To move your child far away or to a state other than North Carolina, you need either an agreement with the other parent, or a court order approving the relocation.

Moving with your child does not have to become a long, drawn-out process. When the move is what’s best for your child, you and the other parent can make it work. If your child’s other parent is not agreeable to the move or you two cannot decide how to handle shared custody over a long distance, contact an experienced North Carolina custody attorney at Breeden Law Office.

Attorney Jonathan Breeden understands relocating a child can be difficult, and he will guide you through this legal process. Call (919) 661-4970 today to schedule a case consultation.

What if I’m moving and want full custody of my child?

When to Seek Approval for a Child Relocation

If you are a divorced or separated parent, you do not need parental agreement or a court order every time you move. If you are moving to another house within your same city or county, you can most likely do so without heading to court or asking for permission. However, there are geographic boundaries. To determine when a move requires permission, you need to carefully review your child custody order. It should include terms of how far you can move or travel with your child before you need to ask for the other parent’s or court’s consent.

If your custody order does not define geographic limits, then it is safe to assume moving out of state will raise a legal issue with your child’s other parent. Also, moving within state, but several hours away will also likely create tension. In this situation, you should not assume you can move without permission. It is better to work with an attorney and within the court system to gain approval for your move beforehand and institute a new parenting plan. Moving without consent could lead to a far more complex custody battle, which could end in your child’s other parent gaining more custody and having your child return to North Carolina.

If you do not have a custody order in place, several issues could arise if you or your child’s other parent wants to move. Without a legally binding arrangement, a parent can move anywhere, even out of state. The other parent may look at it as a problem or even a kidnapping, but unless the motive is to evade the law, it’s legal. The parent still in North Carolina may be able to ask the court for emergency custody if they can show that the moving parent left the state to evade the jurisdiction of the North Carolina courts. In these types of situations, it’s of vital importance that you seek legal advice from an experienced child custody attorney.

Gaining Parental Agreement to a Child Relocation

You and your child’s other parent always have the right to work together for what is best for your child. If you wish to move your child to another region of North Carolina or to a new state entirely, the other parent can agree. If you have a child custody order in place, you should return to court with this agreement to have the order properly modified to reflect the new situation. As long as the new arrangement is within the child’s best interests, the judge will approve it. However, if it is clear the move is not in the child’s best interests, the judge has the right to deny the relocation.

If you do not have a custody order in place and you and your child’s other parent both approve of the move, you should head to court to solidify the arrangement and have it formalized in a child custody order. This holds both of you accountable to your new parenting plan. It protects your right to move your child out of state, which is something the other parent could dispute down the road if you do not obtain a court order in your favor.

Returning to Court for Relocation Approval

If the other parent does not agree to the move or you two disagree on how to handle long-distance visitation, then you will have to return to court. Additionally, even if the two of you agree to the relocation, you will likely have to go to court. As the custodial parent, you must file a complaint for initial custody, or motion to modify custody in your local district court asking the judge for approval to relocate your child and to modify the custody order. If you live in Johnston or Harnett County, then you will take your matter to the civil division of the district court. There is no separate and distinct family court. However, if you live in Wake County, there is a specific family court created to handle domestic disputes, including child custody and relocation matters.

Is the Relocation in Your Child’s Best Interests?

The judge will base their decision to approve or deny a relocation based on whether or not the move in your child’s best interests. As the custodial parent, the judge will initially assume that staying in your home and moving with you is in the child’s best interests. However, that does not guarantee the relocation will be approved. Your child’s other parent has the right to present evidence that the move is not what is best for your son or daughter.

When reviewing whether the relocation is in the best interests of your child, the judge will review:

  • Your reasons for, or intent behind the relocation
  • How the relocation may improve your child’s life
  • The likelihood a realistic custody and visitation schedule can be arranged to preserve your child’s relationship with the other parent
  • Your ability and intent to comply with the custody and visitation order once the child has moved out of state
  • The reasons for or intent behind the other parent’s disagreement with the move

Common Issues Associated With Relocating a Child

When you wish to relocate with your child, much of the dispute may revolve around logistics. Some of the most important questions you and the other parent need to answer during this matter include:

  • How will the child maintain consistent communication with the other parent?
  • How and when will the other parent receive their share of time with their child?
  • How will you and the other parent handle holidays, birthdays, and other important occasions?
  • How will your child travel between each home?
  • Who accompanies your young children when they travel?
  • Who pays for the cost of your child’s travel?

A relocation out of state inherently means a greater amount of long-distance travel. You need to be prepared to drive your child back and forth or paying to have your child fly to visit their other parent. A child’s relocation can lead to a significant financial burden.

Opposing Your Child’s Relocation

If you are the non-custodial parent of your child and do not want your child’s mother or father to take them out of state, contact an experienced child custody lawyer today. You have every right to oppose the relocation of your child. However, to be successful in this dispute, you will need a strong argument supporting that it is in your child’s best interests to stay in North Carolina. One of the best ways to do this is to demonstrate how the distance and travel will damage the relationship you share with your child. If you wish to gain primary custody of your child, you must prove that this is in their best interests as well.

Are You Dealing With a Child Relocation Dispute?

If you wish to move your child out of state or you oppose your child’s relocation, contact an experienced and trusted child custody attorney at Breeden Law Office. Attorney Jonathan Breeden understands that you and your child’s other parent may disagree on what is best for your son or daughter. Even if you two agree that the move is in your child’s best interest, you may not see eye-to-eye on how to handle visitation and travel. At Breeden Law Office, you will be guided through negotiations with your child’s other parent.

Contact Breeden Law Office online, or call today to schedule an appointment.

Call Breeden Law Office today:

Call (919) 661-4970

Divorce In North Carolina: What You Need To Know

A book by Jonathan Breeden