When couples divorce, there is one thing that is a constant and that is change. The way a person’s life looks during and immediately following a divorce is probably not the way it’s going to look a year or two later. While this may be a new concept to recently divorced parties, the family courts are well-aware that people’s lives change after a divorce.
Following a divorce, people’s lives change in many different ways. A recently divorced spouse may wish to move back home to be closer to family. They may go back to school and need to relocate for a new job. Or, they may meet someone new and move to another state to join their new life partner.
It’s not unusual for divorced spouses to want to move to a new city, county, or state after a divorce. The question is, what if one parent wants to up and move far away with the children?
When One Parent Wants to Move With the Children
As divorce attorneys, we want you to know that move away situations are complicated and the laws are constantly changing. If you, or the other parent wants to move far away with the children, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible.
Generally speaking, if a parent already has sole custody of the children, also known as “primary physical custody,” then he or she can move away with the children if they so please, unless their ex-spouse can prove to the court that such a move would be harmful to the children.
If you have the children most of the time and you want to move away, please be forewarned: it’s not always crystal clear whether a child custody order is “temporary” or “permanent,” so you want an attorney to look at your court orders and explain how the laws apply to your particular situation.
What if we have joint physical custody?
If the parents have joint physical custody of their children, it can be more complicated, especially if one of the parents is against the move. For example, if you have joint physical custody and your ex is not okay with the move, you’re going to have to convince the court that the move would be in your children’s best interests.
What does your parenting plan say? Even if it “says” that you have joint physical custody, it does not mean that your children are spending much time with your ex-husband or wife. Perhaps your ex is supposed to see your children three days a week, but in reality they see them one weekend a month and you have the children the rest of the time.
The family courts recognize that not all families stick to the schedules in their parenting plans; the courts understand that often one parent spends significantly more time with the children than the other parent.
If that’s the case with you and you want to move with your children, the court will take a close look at the actual parenting schedule in present time, rather than relying on your parenting plan, which may not reflect the actual parenting schedule.
If you are not yet divorced and you are concerned that your soon-to-be-ex may want to move away with your children after the divorce is finalized, or if you think that you may want to move away with your children, make sure you talk to a divorce attorney before you agree to a parenting plan so you can ensure that the plan protects you in move-away situations.
What if my children move away with my ex?
We understand that this can be one of the most difficult aspects of divorce for parents. If the court allows your ex-husband or wife to move away with your children, there are things that you can do.
You can ask the court to ensure that the parenting plan takes the move into consideration and adjusts your visitation time accordingly so you still have quality time for your children. For example, you could ask to have summer breaks and alternating holidays with your children.
Parents today have an advantage because they have the Internet, smartphones, Facebook, Skype, and of course FaceTime (for Mac users), which makes it much easier to “stay connected” than ever before.
Between texting, email, Facebook messaging, and FaceTime, out-of-state parents have the ability to see and speak to their children on a daily basis, even if they aren’t with them in person.
Travelling Out-of-State or Abroad
Usually, divorced parents need to get permission from the other parent if they want to travel out-of-state or abroad with their children, especially if they want to leave the country during the other parent’s court-ordered visitation time.
If you are having trouble finding your ex-husband or wife and you wish to travel abroad with your children, you need to go to court and ask the judge for permission to leave the U.S. with your children. You will have to look for your ex, and let the judge know that you did everything you could to locate him or her to no avail.
Look Over Your Custody Orders Closely
If you are considering traveling out-of-state or overseas with your children, you are urged to look over the current child custody and visitation orders to be sure that there are no restrictions that bar you from travelling out of state or to another country with your children.
If there are restrictions on travel, you must obtain a special court order that gives you permission to travel with your children, and we can help you with that endeavor.
Searching for a Los Angeles divorce lawyer? Contact Claery & Hammond, LLPfor all of your divorce and child custody needs – our initial consultations are free.