Child custody is one of the most difficult parts of divorce negotiations. Each parent wants to have influence over their child’s life and to either be the primary custodian or maintain day-to-day contact with the child.

That’s why custody is spelled out in divorce proceedings. It’s also why your ex-spouse needs to be notified of any changes in a timely manner and changes also need to be approved by the judge.

Moving out of state

During divorce proceedings, the judge will determine which spouse will be legal guardian and custodial guardian.

Legal guardianship – which can be given to one or the other spouse or split between the two – determines who will make medical, religious and educational decisions about the child.

Custodial guardianship – which is given to one parent or the other – determines where the child will primarily live and who will provide care for the child. The other spouse often pays child support and cares for the child on a schedule of weekends, holidays and during the summer.

These decisions are made by a judge with the best interest of the child in mind. The wants and desires of the parents are taken into account, but the needs of the child are the main driver.

Changes need to be approved by the judge

Changes to a judge’s custody order – including visitation rights – need to be approved by the judge regardless of whether the parents make a deal outside of court.

If the custodial parent wants to move, they need to notify the other parent at least 30 days before the move. They must also petition the court for a change in the custody order. If the other parent disagrees with the move, the judge can take that into account during a custody hearing.

However, the judge will make a decision that is in the best interest of the child over the interests of the parents, taking factors into consideration that include:

  • The child’s age
  • The child’s relationship with the parents
  • Educational advantages to the move
  • Distance and travelling costs for the non-custodial parent
  • The child’s ties with school, friends, relatives and the community

Child custody is emotional and complicated. Contact a qualified, experienced attorney to help you sort through all the legal issues involved with child relocation.