Prior to relocating with your child, you must determine if your reason for relocating is substantial and necessary. You must be prepared to prove that you have a valid reason for relocating in court. You or your new spouse may be moving to have a better job opportunity.
Perhaps you’re moving to care for an aging parent or other family member. Or, if you’re living in an area just to be close to your children, you may simply desire to move back to where your support network is such as family, friends, church, or your hometown community.
Is Your Move in the Best Interest of the Children?
If the children spend substantial time with you, and you wish to take the child/children with you, you must prove it’s in the best interest of the children to go with you. If you have primary custody and the alternate parent is not spending substantial amount of time with the children, the court will normally let the children go with you if you have proof that you are moving for a substantial reason. The court will not allow you to move and take the children with you if it determines that your motives are vindictive or to alienate the other parent from the children or that your relocation does not have a reasonable purpose or you are moving to an area that could endanger the children.
Steps to Take Before Relocating with Your Children
The “Parental Location” statute found at Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-108, outlines the steps you must take before moving. This law was put in place to prevent one parent from taking the child without the consent of the other parent and the court. You will need to start by sending a notice by certified mail to the other parent which includes:
- Statement of intent to move;
- Location of proposed new residence;
- Reason for proposed relocation; and
- Statement that the other parent may file a petition in opposition to the move within thirty (30) days of receipt of the notice.
-Tenn. Code Ann § 36-6-108
In addition, unless both parents can agree on a new visitation schedule, you must file a petition to change the parenting plan. If there is no opposition filed within 30 days of the other parent receiving notice, you may move away with the child/children.
Factors the Court Considers Before Granting Custody
If the other parent files an opposition to your relocation plan within 30 days, the court will step in to consider the best interest of the children. The court will consider many factors before granting custody to a parent who is moving, including but not limited to the following:
- The extent to which you have already been allowed visitation, the extent to which you have exercised your visitation rights, and whether you will be likely to comply with the new visitation arrangement once you move.
- Your ability to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, and education.
- The stability of the family unit of both parents, as well as the mental and physical health of each parent.
- The child’s preference if the child is 12 years of age or older. The court may also take into consideration the preference of younger children, but the older children’s preferences generally carry more weight.
If you’re planning to move out of state or more than 50 miles away from the child’s other parent and wish to take the child/children with you, you should talk to an attorney to be sure you are following the correct procedures to avoid being held in contempt of court.
Lewis Williams is an associate attorney with Flexer Law, a full-service law firm in Nashville, Tennessee. With over a decade of experience, he has represented clients in over 2,000 domestic cases. In his spare time, Lewis enjoys playing basketball and going to his kids’ soccer and baseball games.