As custodial parent, can I relocate out of state?

UPDATED: Nov 14, 2011

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As custodial parent, can I relocate out of state?

I am the custodial parent living in GA and relocating to MI. I remarried to someone in the military and he is being stationed there. My ex-husband has petitioned for custody. He has a history of not paying child support and petitioned for a reduction last year and was denied. He threatened to petition if I did not give him the reduction. I am very active with my kids in their schools and he has never participated. His wife is hateful to my children and very jealous of me. It will ruin their lives if he gets custody and it will ruin mine. He has a long history of being an alcoholic.

Asked on November 14, 2011 under Family Law, Georgia


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Unless your custody agreement directly addresses this issue, since you are the parent seeking to move out-of-state with the minor children, you must request the court's permission (whether or not you have sole physical/legal custody).  A move without such permission could mean that you are in contempt of court and accordingly you could be charged with parental kidnapping. Specifically, the relocating parent must give a 30-day written notice of their intent to move. The other parent then must approve or deny the request. Before one parent takes his or her child out of state on a permanent basis, a petition for modification may be filed by either parent. A relocation is a ground for modification but that doesn't mean that the court will change custody.

The court will look at the "best interests" of the child in making its decision and the burden will be on you to help persuade the court that a move should be allowed. Each case is reviewed on a case-by-case analysis; some of the factors considered are: 

  • The reason for the relocation;
  • The motivation of the parent opposing the move;
  • The advantages of relocation in regards to improving the life of the child;
  • Any disadvantages of relocation on the child;
  • The likelihood that a reasonable visitation schedule can be arranged which will preserve the parental relationship with the non-custodial parent;
  • The likelihood that the parent desiring the move will comply with visitation orders after they have relocated to another state;
  • A chance to bond with extended family members. 

Note:  A parent who wishes to relocate because of a job, new spouse, or to care for sick relatives will typically have a stronger case than a parent who simply wants to move away from the non-custodial parent.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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