Child Custody Relocation Rules and Considerations

Young girl in a moving box.

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Child custody relocation isn't uncommon following a divorce or separation. But there are rules to protect the best interests of the children that parents should keep in mind before moving. Even if you're facing tough economic times and feel you have no other choice, be sure to weigh the following considerations before you relocate with your kids.

Reasons to Relocate

It can be frightening to think about your child's other parent moving away, especially if they would like to move with the kids. It may also be difficult to ascertain when a move for yourself would be a reasonable request. 

Child custody laws vary by state, and the kind of legal and physical custody you have will determine the level of involvement of the court. Every court will consider the best interests of the child when evaluating a relocation request from one of the parents. Some situations may be considered more "good faith" than others.

Good Faith Moves
  • It would put you closer to extended family members

  • It would allow you to seek a better job and/or housing opportunities

  • It would allow you to continue your education

  • Regular visitation would still be possible

Bad Faith Moves
  • To get away from your ex as a form of revenge

  • To limit your ex's access to the children

  • To reduce child support

In addition to the motivation of the parent who is looking to relocate, the court will also consider the existing involvement of the other parent when evaluating if a move is reasonable. For instance, if the other parent does not abide by a parenting time agreement or is otherwise absent in their child's life, that parent's objection may not hold a lot of weight in court.

Best Interests of the Child Standard

Remember that the court's primary intention is always to support the best interests of the child. Quite often, as part of the best interests standards, when the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent head to court over relocation-related disputes, the courts will rule in favor of not disrupting the children's lives any more than necessary.

That means that the parent who plans to relocate with the child will have to convince the court why a move would benefit the child, while the parent who is not relocating will have to prove that relocation is not ideal.

Best interest standards vary by state, but generally, you should be able to answer if a move enhances or maintains the following for your kids:

  • Consistency in a child's environment and routine
  • The child's health and safety 
  • Family bonds
  • What the child wants

The relocating parent should anticipate having a very difficult burden of proof in court.

Court Considerations 

The courts expect a relocating parent to notify a non-relocating parent about a move as soon as reasonably possible—preferably, as soon as the relocating parent makes the decision to move. Custodial interference laws make it a crime to hide or prevent the other parent from accessing their child. Never move a long distance with your child before obtaining consent from your child’s other parent or permission from the court. 

The courts will consider several factors when deciding whether to allow a parent to relocate with a child. Those factors include:

  • The relationship between your child and the other parent and between your child and other significant people in your child's life
  • How disrupting contact with your child and the other parent might affect your child
  • Whether you are asking for a move for a good faith reason and whether the other parent is objecting in good faith
  • How a move could impact the child's development
  • What the child wants
  • How far the move is 
  • Whether the child will have improved or diminished access to quality education, housing, and extracurricular activities
  • Access to technology and alternate parenting schedules to facilitate an ongoing relationship with the other parent
  • Alternatives to moving
  • The financial impact of the move on the family and children

When heading to court, be prepared to answer questions about possible school districts and activities available to the child in the new location. Additionally, you should be able to explain how you will accommodate travel and alternate parenting time arrangements. For instance, a relocating parent might want to consider proposing a new custody schedule that would permit extended vacation visits with the non-relocating parent.

Courts do not look very favorably upon a relocating parent who was aware of a move and chose not to disclose it to a co-parent until the last minute.

How to Win a Relocation Custody Case

If you are considering a relocation, you should review your responsibilities as a co-parent under the law. Verify what clauses exist in your state regarding moving with children. For example, in Michigan, parents need the judge's permission to move more than 100 miles from where the child lived at the time the case was filed. In Florida, the rule is 50 miles. State rules also vary on how much notice you must give the other parent. South Dakota, for example, requires 45 days. Pennsylvania requires 60 days' notice.

Rules like these don't mean you can't move, but they do mean that you'll need to get consent from the other parent or petition the court if the other parent does not consent to your move.

Steps to follow if you plan to move:

  1. Inform your child's other parent.
  2. If the other parent consents, have a lawyer help you draft a consent order and submit it to the court.
  3. If the other parent does not consent, consider mediation.
  4. If mediation doesn't work, file a motion requesting permission from the court to move.

A Word From Verywell

Courts strongly favor maintaining consistency in a child's schedule and environment. That means that if you wish to move with your kids, you will have to prove to the court that the move is in their best interests with regard to other factors that benefit them.

It's natural to feel frustrated by limitations placed on where you are allowed to live. Try to remember that relocation rules are in place to maintain stability for children and protect their relationships with both parents. If you are thinking about relocating, or if your child's other parent is planning to relocate, you may want to reach out to a child custody lawyer for assistance. 

6 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Health of Human Services. Determining the best interests of the child.

  2. Michigan Legal Help. Moving with children after separation or divorce.

  3. Washington Law Help. Questions and answers about Washington’s relocation law.

  4. Instructions for Florida Supreme Court approved family law form 12.950(A) Agreement for relocation with minor child(ren). Florida Courts; 2018.

  5. South Dakota Legislature. Codified laws.

  6. Pennsylvania General Assembly. Title 23.

By Debrina Washington
Debrina Washington is a New York-based family law attorney and writer, who runs her own virtual practice to assist single parents with legal issues.