How Far Can I Move? – Joint Custody in NC

Written by Jonathan Breeden

July 31, 2020

In North Carolina, there are no laws limiting where parents with joint or sole custody can move with their children. Instead, moving is dictated by separation agreements and custody orders. These court orders may set limits on how far you can relocate from the other parent. State law also does not define joint custody versus sole custody. Rather, these terms are generally defined within the separation agreement or custody order.

Obeying custody orders and separation agreements are very important. While North Carolina law doesn’t limit how far you can move with your kids, it does make it a crime to move across state lines with a child you intend on violating a custody order. Therefore, if you are considering a move, you should consult with an experienced North Carolina family lawyer.

With over 20 years experience and local offices in Raleigh, Garner, Angier, and Smithfield, attorney Jonathan Breeden has helped countless individuals successfully resolve their custody issues.

Call (919) 205-5254 today or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

Do You Have a Separation Agreement or Custody Order?

If you do not have a custody order or separation agreement, you should be very careful about moving out of state. Without a formal agreement, you will likely go through a court hearing to determine custody. Any attempt to move away with a child could be held against you at future custody hearings.

It is probably in your best interest to stay put until you and your child’s other parent reach a formal agreement, or the court issues an official custody order.

What Does the Separation Agreement or Custody Order Say?

Your custody order or separation agreement may or may not have language limiting your ability to move. Even if these documents do not set any limits, you should exercise caution. The absence of a limit should not be interpreted as a green light to move wherever you want. If you move without the other parent’s consent, they can petition the court to issue an emergency custody order, forcing you to return the children.

If your custody order does limit how far away you and your children can move, do not violate this order. With an attorney’s help, you may be able to reach a new agreement to authorize the move, or petition the court to issue a new custody order that sets a different limit on how far away you can move.

The key is to demonstrate that the move would be in the best interests of the child.

Is Moving in the Child’s Best Interest?

When it comes to moving away if you have joint custody, the child’s best interest is the most important factor. Therefore, you may not be able to move 20 miles if doing so would harm the best interests of your child. Conversely, a move across the country could be authorized if it appears that it would improve the child’s environment.

How Courts Make Decisions about Moving

From the court’s perspective, the parent who receives physical custody benefits from the assumption that their actions are in the best interest of the child. So it’s usually up to the parent without physical custody to show that the move would not be in the best interests of the child.

Factors that a court considers in determining whether a move would be in the best interests of the child include:

  • The relationship the child has with each parent
  • How difficult it would be to arrange visitation in the new location
  • How strong the child’s ties are to their current home
  • Whether the child has friends, family, or opportunities in the new location
  • The type of home environment that will be offered in their new home
  • The parent’s earning ability in the new area

Have Questions About Custody? Contact Us Today

If the court decides that a move would be harmful to the child, it is not going to modify a custody order. This is why it’s important to work with an experienced North Carolina custody lawyer. Attorney Breeden can present your case in its best light, and articulate just how the move might be beneficial to the child.

If you want to move in or out of state with your child, or you have questions about joint custody in North Carolina, call Breeden Law Office today at (919) 661-4970 to schedule a case consultation. You can also submit your request online.


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