Can the Parent with Custody Move Away with the Child?

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What if the parent with residential custody tells me s/he is moving to another state with the child?

The other parent must not move to another state without first making an agreement with you about any changes in visitation needed after the move.

If you and the other parent can agree about visitation after the move:

  • Put your agreement in writing, and
  • File a copy of your agreement with the court.

If you cannot agree, ask for a court hearing to have a judge decide.

The judge may decide to give the other parent residential custody because of the move.

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What if the parent with residential custody already moved to another state with our child?

If the other parent moved without telling you, talk to a lawyer immediately. This can be complicated, and you will need a lawyer's help.

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How much notice does the other parent have to give me about the move?

Usually, the court requires 30 days notice to the other parent with joint custody. But it may take longer to make an agreement with the other parent or get a court order. It is a good idea to give notice 90 days before the move, or as soon as possible.

If you and the other parent can make an agreement about the move and any changes to visitation that may be needed, put your agreement in writing and file it with the court.

If you cannot make an agreement about the move, you must ask for a court hearing before you move. If you do not ask for a hearing, the court might punish you. You must do this even if the other parent does not see the child.

Important! Ask the clerk of your court what the notice rules are for this situation. If you do not give proper notice, the court may decide to give custody to the other parent.

Talk to a lawyer if:

  • You and the other parent do not agree about the move,
  • You move before you have a court hearing,
  • You are moving to get away from domestic violence, or
  • You have sole legal custody.

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What if I already moved, but can't afford to hire a lawyer?

You should still give written notice to the other parent as soon as possible. Do not criticize the other parent in your Notice. Your Notice should include this information:

  • The reasons you moved, for example: a job transfer, acceptance to school, etc.
  • Your interest in working out a new visitation schedule so the other parent can see the child.
  • Your court case information, including:
    • Both parents' names
    • Case number
    • State
    • County
    • Court

Sign it, and send it to the other parent. File a copy of the Notice with the court that made your custody order

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Can the court take residential custody away from me if I move?

Yes. If the court believes it is not in the child's best interest to move, it may give residential custody to the other parent. If custody changes, child support will change, too.

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How will the court decide?

The court will consider many factors, including:

  • How far away you plan to move,
  • How hard it will be for the other parent to see your child and maintain their relationship,
  • How much you have supported the other parent's contact with the child in the past,
  • The reasons for your move,
  • The reasons the other parent doesn't want you to move, and
  • Other factors that affect what is best for the child.

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Can my child testify at the custody hearing, or talk to the judge?

Children (who are at least 7 years old) can testify in court, but usually they do not. Most experts believe it is not good for the child. You can ask the judge to talk to your child in private. The court may say yes, especially if the child is over 14. You cannot be there when the judge talks to the child, but you can ask your lawyer to be there.

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Will the judge do what the child wants?

The judge will consider what the child says, and why the child wants to be with one parent, especially if the child is at least 14 years old. But the judge must consider other factors, too. See: Can my child testify at the custody hearing?

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What if there is more than one custody order for my case?

The most recent order is the one you have to follow. If you need a copy, contact the court where the order was made.

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Reviewed August 2009