Written by Jonathan Breeden
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.