Child Custody - Moving Out of State

Just because you have been to court and worked out an agreement for the custody of your children does not mean your child custody case is permanently settled. As long as you have minor children, there is the potential that changes may need to be made to your child custody arrangements.

Frequently, as former spouses establish new lives after divorce, interstate relocation becomes an issue. New relationships, work transfers or simply the desire to start again in a new place are common reasons that former spouses end up in different parts of the country.

When a custodial parent wants to relocate, former spouses should meet outside of the courtroom and make a mutual legal agreement modifying their custody terms.

Factors that determine a child's move

  • The parent's motive in moving the child out-of-state.
  • How far away the child will be moving from the left-behind parent.
  • The child's relationship with the left-behind parent.
  • The likely affect the move will have on the child.
  • How easy or difficult it will be to maintain a relationship between the child and the left-behind parent.

In order to assess the likelihood that you will be able to move your child to a different state, or stop your former spouse relocating your child or children out of state, talk to your family lawyer about your particular child custody case.

If you have a civil relationship with your former spouse, and your children are going to be moved out of state, go ahead and meet with your lawyer, your former spouse, and their lawyer. During this meeting you should establish an agreement specifically detailing changes to:

  • The amount of parenting time each party will have.
  • How much telephone/email contact you will have with your child if you are the parent left behind.
  • Traveling arrangements for custodial visitation, including who will be funding the travel.

If needed, the matter can be taken to court and a judge will decide if the terms of the agreement are fair and applicable.

If your child does move to a state other than where their custody case was decided, it is possible that the state with jurisdiction over your child custody case may also change. A very detailed document called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) was accepted into law in Texas in 1999 to govern the specific issue of child relocation in a custody case. Just because a parent moves their child to a particular state, does not mean that state automatically has a say over the custody of that child. However, if it is determined that your child's "home state" has become different to that of the original custody case, then the laws governing child custody in the child's new home state will apply to your case in any further court action. The original home state of the child custody case keeps jurisdiction over all matters concerning your case, unless:

  • A court of the state with jurisdiction determines that the child, or the child and a parent do not have a significant connection with the state, and evidence concerning the child's custody determination is not available in the state;
  • A court of the state with jurisdiction, or any other state, determines that the child and both parents, (or legal guardians) do not reside in the state any longer.

Under the first exception, if the children move away, yet maintain a strong connection to the original home state of the custody case, (by frequently visiting their non-custodial parent in that state), that state retains jurisdiction.

Under the second exception, if both parents move to states other than the original home state of the custody case, the new state of residence of the children becomes the one with jurisdiction over the case.

Non-custodial parents whose former spouses move their children to other states are protected under the UCCJEA. Under the law, a relocating parent must give the spouse they are leaving behind 60 days notice of the plan to relocate. Visitation schedules, including holidays and summer vacation are also expected to be worked out and approved by the court before any relocation occurs.

If there is a possibility that your former spouse will be moving your child out of state or overseas at some time in the future, negotiate the terms of long-distance custody and visitation arrangements as part of your initial custody case. The relevance and importance of doing so in advance cannot be understated, especially if your child moves to a state that has significant differences in the law regarding how custody is awarded. For peace of mind, consider talking with a child custody attorney in more detail about your situation.

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.