A move to a new state can seem like the perfect way to restart life after divorce. Unfortunately, if joint custody was part of the divorce agreement it can complicate matters. If you do not have the approval of the other parent when you move away with a child you can face legal repercussions that include the loss of custody.
Prepare During Divorce
The easiest way to handle a long-distance move is to negotiate some type of agreement during the divorce. Include how many miles away either parent can move without consent from the ex-spouse, how shared custody will take place after a move, and how much notice to provide before the relocation occurs.
Discuss the Issue
Try to talk openly with your ex if the subject of a relocation agreement did not come up during the divorce proceedings. If your ex consents to the move, make certain their consent is in writing. You may have trouble if you try to prove a verbal agreement in court, and people can change their minds once their child lives hundreds of miles away.
Consent in writing allows you to have some type of defense for your actions. In New Mexico, a parent can receive a charge of custodial interference, a parental kidnapping charge. The crime is a felony and it can result in a loss of custody among other punishments.
Get a Lawyer
Parents often need to return to court for a custody modification before they move. Contact a lawyer to help you create a new custody arrangement. The judge will usually want to keep the new arrangement as close as possible to the prior one to enable both parents to have time with their child.
The matter may become more complicated if your ex previously had only visitation rights and not custody. The charges of custodial interference can still apply if you move without consent. If your ex must drive or fly hundreds of miles for visitation the judge may block the move or decide on a new custody order that gives shared custody.
Have a Reason
Custodial parents can lose custody if a judge believes a move is taking place as punishment or revenge towards the ex-spouse. In New Mexico, a mother did lose custody after moving out of state with her child for this reason. Justifiable reasons for a move can vary, but the main reason should be to help your child have a better quality of life.
Some people move due to employment, to be closer to family, or to allow their children to attend a better school. The move may be desirable because the new location has less crime or offers more resources for the family. Have a solid reason rather than just the desire to be somewhere else.
In New Mexico, children over the age of 14 have the right to offer their own opinion. A judge will listen when a child says they want to live closer to grandparents or be near desirable universities as they approach college age. Discuss with your lawyer the advantages of allowing your child to voice their opinion on the move.
Give Advance Notice
Give your ex-spouse notice of the move at least 30–60 days before the planned date. The notification gives the other parent the time to object and seek a custody modification. You may receive a court order to return the child if you do not give your ex enough notice.
Custody issues are often the most painful and frightening parts of a divorce for a caring parent. At the Law Offices of Lynda Latta, LLC, we want to help you to protect your rights as a mother or father. If you have considered an out of state move with your child, contact us to discuss your options.