Relocation is a modification to physical custody where the custodial parent wishes to relocate to another state or anywhere that will make it difficult for the non-custodial parent to maintain frequent in-person contact with the child.
Many courts have balanced the impact on visitation by the non-custodial parent against the benefits of the move to both the child and the custodial parent, with an overall trend toward leniency for the wishes and needs of the custodial parent.
Relocation requires consent or court approval. The custodial parent brings the action and has the burden of proof to show a “material and substantial change in circumstances” and that relocation is in the best needs of the child.
Before granting or denying a relocation modification, the courts apply a four-step analysis:
1. Real Advantage Test, where the court asks if there is a good and sincere reason for the move. This test does not get applied if physical custody is shared equally between both parents. If physical custody is shared, the test is what’s is the best interest of the child.
2. The court will then look at the history of parent cooperation. Up to this point, have both parents been abiding by the visitation plan with minimal interference with each other’s parenting time.
3. The court takes a serious overall look at what will achieve the best interest of the child. Factors considered are the child’s health, education and development. Furthermore, how disruptive will the move be on the child’s life and relationship with the non-custodial parent and non-custodial siblings.
4. Lastly, the courts consider the wellbeing of the custodial parent.
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