Whether you're in the military or manufacturing, the high-tech or healthcare sector, you know how often, and how quickly, job relocations can happen. They're not always by choice. But if you share custody or have visitation rights with children from a previous marriage, what's to stop your ex from leaving town-or the state-with your son and/or daughter?
It's probably something you've worried about or dreaded. You want to maintain a close connection to your children. How can you do that when they're hundreds of miles away?
Ways to protect your rights
There are many laws regarding relocation, in order to protect both children and parents. Many people include a relocation clause as part of their divorce order so that everyone is clear about what is allowed in a specific case and what is not. If you are just beginning divorce proceedings and you think this may come up and want to include a clause, be sure to investigate your options by talking to a lawyer.
Your ex will have to follow a prescribed course of action and do everything by the book in order to relocate with your child:
- 60-day notice is required (there are exceptions, so check with a lawyer).
- Parents cannot move the child during the first 30 days after giving this notice, unless there is a court order or proof that the non-custodial parent does not object to the move.
- The parent is allowed to move away with the child after 30 days only if no objection is filed.
- But if an objection is filed, the parent cannot move unless he/she receives a temporary order allowing the relocation while the case is sorted out.
One of the most important things for you to remember is that you have only 30 days to file an objection once you are informed of the desired move.
You can also petition to modify your parenting plan because of the relocation, or you can request a temporary order that would stop your child's move.
This wasn't the (parenting) plan
If you have a good, amicable relationship with your ex, it may work to talk things through yourselves and come up with a new parenting plan, ensuring you maintain your same visitation rights or add extended periods with the kids in order to compensate for not seeing them as often. Just as you're worried about the effects the move will have on your children, and your relationship with them, most likely so is your ex. No matter how hard the conversations may be, they're worth having.
As with the original parenting plan, the key thing to keep in focus is the best interests of the children. If you find you're not happy with the proposed arrangement or feel overwhelmed by the process, consult a lawyer. This is too important to you to let it just "happen."