Relocation in Child Custody
Can my ex stop me from moving with my kids?
There is no easy answer to this question. First, you need to follow the custody relocation rules.
1. You must notify your ex in writing of your intention to move. You have to notify them in writing and be able to prove that they were served with the notice. Certified mail is a good choice. You can also have them served personally.
2. If they object to your move they need to file their objection with the Courts. Once they object the Court will order a hearing on the issue of relocation, frequently referred to as a Ploughman hearing. A Ploughman hearing is different from a normal custody trial in that it reviews not only the standard factors for determining custody but also factors specific to the relocation. The Court will look at the following other factors:
A) The moving party's motivation. If it seems like they are moving out of spite or to make it harder for the non-moving party to see their kids that will be a strike against them.
B) The parties ties to the current community and the new community. If your ex has family and a support structure in their new home and nothing here that will be held in their favor. Sometimes this factor might cancel itself out. For instance, if all of your family lives here and all of your ex's family lives there. That being said, the Court understands the value of extended family in raising children and will look hard at this.
C) The opportunities available to the party in both locations. Is your ex moving to Texas because that is the only place he or she can get ahead in his or her career? The Court doesn't want parents to be tied to a State forever just because it is where the baby was born. Parents should have opportunities to grow as individuals. If the current state of residence doesn't offer that then a move might be appropriate.
D) The impact the move will have on the other party's ability to have a fruitful relationship with his or her children. If you are planning to move far away you should be prepared to offer some solutions to help ease the burden on your ex as far as seeing the children.
So, in the end, the answer to the original question is, yes, no, and maybe.
Yes - You can move with your kids if there is not a significant distance between your new home and your old one. What makes a distance significant is more about how the move might effect the children and their time with your ex. For example, a move inside your children's current school district that won't make it harder for your ex to see the children should be simple. That doesn't mean that your ex won't try to stop you and even delay you but, you should prevail in the end. You can also move if you can convince the Court that the move is in the best interest of the children and you.
No - The things that will prevent you from moving with the children are outlined above. I have seen relocations denied where the moving party was unable to show that the opportunities in the new location were significantly better for them and for the children than their current residence. The moving party bears that burden and it is a significant one. For instance, in one case a parent had accepted a posting in California but, under questioning admitted that he had also been offered an equivalent posting in a neighboring state. That parent's relocation was denied because he couldn't show the Court why he had chosen to accept the position that was so much farther away when there was an equivalent opportunity much closer.
Maybe - These cases all come down to impression. Does the Judge believe that the moving party's motives are honest? Did you show that the opportunities in the new location outweigh those here? Do you have ties to the new community that will make you and your children more likely to succeed. In the end the Court believes that children with successful happy parents grow up to be more successful and happy, so, if that can be achieved by a move without too much damage to the other party's relationship, the move will be granted.