Divorce can be one of the most stressful events of a person’s life. In many cases, emotions have been high for months or years before the actual divorce proceedings begin. The help of a skilled, compassionate family law attorney can greatly improve the process of divorce, but even the best attorney can only manage the conflict between a divorcing couple to some extent. If the split is particularly tenuous, it is common for one or both parties to decide to relocate; a fresh start can be extremely healing. But when children are involved, the desire to move away can further complicate an already tense situation.

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In most states, both parents involved in a divorce are considered to have custody until a court order states otherwise. In this instance, custody refers to both physical and legal custody of the child. An experienced family law attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you are divorcing and have questions about child custody.

Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders

Upon the filing of a divorce petition, temporary restraining orders automatically go into effect, preventing a parent from moving a child out of state without the other parent’s written consent. As such, it is best to wait until you’ve consulted with your divorce attorney before making any plans to relocate with your kids. That being said, relying solely on these temporary orders is not a good idea if you are concerned that your spouse is going to move with the kids anyway. Although rare, some parents do disregard these orders and illegally remove kids from the state. An experienced family law attorney can help you obtain emergency court orders if this is a legitimate concern.

What is the Custody Arrangement?

Things become a bit clearer once the divorce proceedings have progressed to the point at which both parties have obtained legal counsel and custody arrangements have been put in place. Let’s say you are three months into your divorce, and you have been granted sole custody of your child. If you are offered an out-of-state job and think it’s best for your child to relocate with you, you effectively have the right to choose. However, if your ex-spouse objects, the court may step in if it agrees that the move is not in your child’s best interest. If, for example, your child is heavily involved in school clubs and the local community,  and they do not want to move away from friends, sports, and other activities, the court may support your child’s wishes.

What is in the Child’s Best Interests?

If the court must be involved in the decision about whether or not you or your ex-spouse can move out of state with a child, it will always look at what is in the best interests of the child. Depending on the particulars of your case, the court will look at a variety of factors to make this determination. Does the parent who wishes to relocate with the child have sole or shared custody? Will the request to move require the modification of a temporary or final custody order? Does the child wish to move?

According to Dallas-based Attorney Beth Maultsby with GoransonBain Ausley, research overwhelmingly demonstrates that children who have regular contact with both parents do better socially, academically, and psychologically.

“For example, children who have regular contact with both parents do better in school, are less likely to have drug and alcohol problems and teenage pregnancies, are less susceptible to depression and anxiety and are more likely to be well-adjusted adults than those children who do not have regular contact with both parents,” said Maultsby. “As a result of this research, most states enacted laws that promote both parents being actively involved in a child’s life by restricting the relocation of a child from the state where the other party is living unless certain factors are met. Because the relocation laws of each state may vary greatly, including the factors that a court will consider in making its decision, it is important to consult with an attorney from your area regarding this issue before filing a divorce action.”

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) was enacted to prevent parents from moving out of state with their child in order to obtain a favorable custody ruling. Basically, UCCJEA requires parents to file for custody in their home state and requires states to honor the home state’s orders. As with most legal issues, there are exceptions. When domestic violence or other emergency situations are involved, the court may issue a temporary emergency order to leave the state. This order is good until a final order is issued by the home state.

Contact a Family Law Attorney Today

If you are concerned that your ex-spouse is going to move your kids out of state without your consent, or you wish to move your kids out of state and think your ex-spouse is going to object, an experienced family law attorney can help. Divorce can be one of the most challenging times of your life, especially when kids are involved. Reduce your stress, minimize financial losses, and protect the best interests of you and your children by consulting with an experienced divorce lawyer today.