To Relocate or Not to Relocate during (Or After) a Divorce: That’s the Question

Rachel K. Miller, Esq.Custody, Divorce

When I hear a client say “I want to move out of the state (or country) with the children”, my first reaction is to get out a pen and start taking notes.  My mind starts moving a million miles per minute, and questions start shooting out of my mouth – where, when, why, how?! 

Relocation cases are some of the most difficult cases that family law attorneys address.  Each one presents its own unique set of facts and circumstances and each one needs to be evaluated carefully.  The courts take relocation seriously because the non-relocating parent will ultimately lose time with the children.  The non-relocating parent will not be able to attend back to school night, or go to the baseball field to see the winning hit, or host playdates and meet other families.  That parent will become the vacation parent.    

Prior to beginning a relocation case, the attorneys at Richardson Bloom & Lines carefully discuss all of the facts with the client to assess whether we believe that relocation with the children is possible.[1]  Below is a list of the five key facts that RBL attorneys need to understand before advising a client to continue with a relocation case.  We encourage you to review this list before you decide to move out of the state (or country) with the children. 

The relocating parent needs to show that:

  1. The move is necessary to better the life of the child.  Are you moving for the betterment of your career, which will, in turn, benefit the children?  Or, are you moving because your significant lives elsewhere?  The court does not want to hear how this move benefits you; the court wants to hear how this move benefits the children.
  2. The children will have a support system in the new location.  Does your extended family live in the new location?  Will they be able to help you with the children?  The court knows that it takes a village! 
  3. The children’s social life will not suffer because of the move.  Do the children have well-established groups of friends in their current location; do they have friends in the new location?   Will the children be able to continue their same (or similar) extra-curricular activities in the new location?  The court wants to ensure that this move will not disrupt the children’s lives significantly. 
  4. The children will receive the same level of services.  Will the children have the same caliber (or better) of schools/teachers, doctors, specialists, therapists, etc. in the new location?  The court wants to hear that the children will receive at least the same level of education and healthcare that they receive in their current location. 
  5. The relocating parent will continue to foster the relationship between the children and the non-relocating parent.  Will you ensure that the children have regular and consistent access to their other parent?  Are you willing to help with the transportation and help to facilitate the other parent’s parenting time?  Do you have a proposal for how the other parent will continue to be an active parent in the children’s lives?  The court recognizes that approving a move will cause a separation from one of the parents; and, since one parent is (indirectly) causing that separation, the court wants to know that you will not make the move any harder on the non-relocating parent. 

Aside from the five considerations explored in this article, a parent considering a relocation with the children should also contemplate the other impacts of the move on the children.  For example, often when the children move, the court requires them to spend many of their school vacations (i.e., holidays and summer) in Georgia with their other parent.  So, when their new friends are attending camps in their new location, they will be back in Georgia spending time with their other parent.  Ask yourself – will my children be able to handle that? 

Relocating with the children is not a simple matter and the decision should not be taken lightly.  There is never a guarantee that you will reach an agreement with the non-relocating parent or that the court will approve the children moving out of state.  However, with the right attorney, you should be able to find a solution that works for both you, your co-parent, and the children.  If you are considering a move out of the state (or out of the country), we strongly encourage you to meet with an experienced family law attorney. The Court could never prevent a party from moving.  It is your Constitutional right to live anywhere that you want to live.  However, the Court could decide that it is in the best interests of the children to remain in Georgia.

[1] The Court could never prevent a party from moving.  It is your Constitutional right to live anywhere that you want to live.  However, the Court could decide that it is in the best interests of the children to remain in Georgia.

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