A “move-away” child custody case, also known as a “removal” case, involves a situation where one parent desires to move out of the city or state that they live in with their child, leaving the other parent behind. In all such cases, a court order approving the move must be granted before the moving parent can relocate, unless the parent left behind provides written permission.
Move-away and removal cases are notoriously difficult to win no matter the circumstances. Out of all cases that are heard by family law judges, these cases are the most difficult because the judge is forced to make a decision that separates a child from one parent.
Parents that desire to relocate should follow these four tips to provide them with a better opportunity for success in their petition to move out of the city or state with a child. Of course, the law varies from state to state as to what is required for a court to decide to allow a move, but these tips are intended to generally apply to every circumstance.
4 Tips for Winning a Move-Away Child Custody Case
Tip 1: Make sure there is a good reason to move
Your case is going to be decided by a judge who is a human being. Notwithstanding the fact that most states have statutory or case law that requires a find that a move is for a good reason and there is a better opportunity for the child in the proposed destination, judges will scrutinize why a parent wants to move and thereby separate a child from a parent. If the moving parent just wants to move closer to a boyfriend or girlfriend, for example, good luck getting a judge to permit the move. If the move is to allow the parent to be closer to family or for a better paying job, the chances of success increase.
Tip 2: Know what factors the court will consider
Most states have specific factors that every judge must consider when presented with a move-away petition. Know what these factors are ahead of time so you can be sure that you have solid and convincing arguments for each factor. Most courts generally consider the following factors:
- The distance of the move
- Which parent is more likely to facilitate the other parent’s relationship with the child
- The ability of the parents to communicate with each other
- The reasons for the move
- Whether the move is solely intended to spite the non-moving parent
- Whether the child will suffer detriment if forced to move
- Each parent’s relationship and bond with the child
- The current custodial arrangement
Tip 3: Understand the procedural process for your specific court (timing considerations)
Every state and every courthouse varies in the procedural process for a move away or removal case. Some courts require an independent investigation and report before making a ruling, which is usually conducted by a child psychologist or other similar professional. Other courts require an evidentiary hearing where oral testimony is taken before a move is even considered. Some courts require mediation. Whatever the case may be for the courthouse and judge assigned to your case, understand the procedure. It can take months or more than a year to complete a move-away case, which is an important consideration if you have a timeline for moving.
Tip 4: Seek legal advice, even if limited in scope
Because move away cases are extremely difficult, and the law for every state has incredible nuance, it is always advisable to seek the help of an expert in the field. If you don’t have the funds to hire a family law expert to represent you in your case, hire an attorney familiar with move-away cases in your jurisdiction just to guide you through the process and give you information. The expert will be able to tell you what factors the court will consider, what timeline to expect, and they can also provide you with strategic advice.