Q: If my spouse has sole custody, or if we share joint legal custody, or if the children just live primarily with the other parent, can the children’s residence be relocated at the discretion of my spouse?
ANSWER: The Court takes the issue of relocation of the children very seriously. The primary concern of the Court is to determine, “what is in the best interests of the children”. In making this determination the Court will ask, “If relocation is allowed, will it significantly impact the relationship between the children and the parent left behind?”. The Court will want to know everything about the existing relationship. (e.g., How often do you visit with the children?, Do you attend their school activities?, Do you have visitation during the week?, Do you exercise all of the visitation rights you have obtained?, What is the quality of your visitation?) The Court will also evaluate the reasons behind the anticipated move to determine if the custodial parent has explored all options in an effort to avoid moving the children. The distance of the proposed move is also an important factor. Is it of such a distance that it will prevent you from exercising your regular visitation with the children? There has been a tendency by the Court to generally allow moves that are less than a two (2) hour drive from the children’s current residence (this assumes that the custodial parent has a valid reason for the move). These determinations are driven by the specific facts of each case, so be careful not to place too much hope in what the Court may have done in other cases.