For divorced parents, moving means more than hiring movers or renting a U-Haul. Because your move might impact child custody, you can expect extra steps.

For starters, the law explicitly recognizes a parent’s relocation as a “substantial change in circumstances.” This means your desire to move could lead to a new custody order. And that means you need to do things right.

What are the steps?

If you have at least 50% of your child’s parenting time, you need to follow several steps before you should bother calling the movers:

  • Give written notice to the other parent of your desire to move. This needs to happen at least 60 days prior to the move. If you can’t possibly file the notice 60 days in advance, you need to give it as early as possible.
  • Get your ex to agree to the move—in writing. If you can file the signed relocation agreement and adjusted parenting plan with the court, you’re all set.
  • If your ex doesn’t agree, you’ll need to petition the court for permission to move.
  • If it receives such a petition, the court will review your request against what it sees as your child’s best interest. In many ways, this functions like a new custody hearing.

As a result, you want to think carefully about your move. If you suspect your ex will object, you’ll want to start gather evidence to support your argument.

What does the court want to see?

Relocation can trigger a whole, brand-new custody modification. But even if you stick to just the relocation, the court will ask if it’s in your child’s best interest. In your response, you’ll want to address:

  • The reason for your move
  • The quality of your relationship with your child
  • How you have cooperated with the existing parenting plan
  • Whether you have any family near your intended destination
  • How you’ll share parenting time after your move
  • The ways your move will benefit your child

Here, parents commonly point toward improvements in education and healthcare, as well as lower crime rates. If you’re moving to take a new job, your raise may help, but the main thing is to show how the move makes life better for your child.

Exceptions

Not every move is a relocation. Based on the county you’re leaving, you may need to move either 25 or 50 miles away from your ex before your move counts as a “relocation.” Any move out of state is a relocation if it takes you more than 25 miles from your ex.

Plan for success

If you want to move, the next step is planning. You want a strong argument to support your petition.