You are always allowed to move after a divorce; however, you may not always be allowed to take your children with you. When parents get a divorce, it is important that they work together to determine where the child will live, go to school and which parent will have the primary responsibility of the children on a daily basis. Parents need to put the best interests of the child first when they are creating a plan, and if they are unable to agree, a judge will look at the situation and create a plan for them. It is common for one parent to want to relocate after a divorce for a variety of reasons. However, that usually mean consequences for the other parent, like decreased parenting time and an increase in cost for visits. If the children are subject to a standard order of parenting time, the parent who wants to move cannot just pick up and leave with their children. They need to get consent from the other parent OR approval from the court in order to move to another state, and sometimes even to another county, with their children.
In Ohio, if a residential parent wants to move to another residence that is not listed in the custody order or parenting time agreement, they need to file a notice of intent to relocate with the original court who initially issued the first custody order. The other parent will receive notice and has a chance to object to the move if they want to.
The court will need to determine whether the relocation is in the child’s best interest, which is the same standard they use for most custody and child related proceedings. The court will look to factors such as:
- The distance of the move.
- The reasons for the move, whether personal, for a job, or a new relationship. Taking your children from a place they have grown up or are familiar with is a major change and could cause significant stress for your children. It may also mean taking them away from another parent that is present in their lives. The court will want to make sure there is a significant, good reason for the move.
- The child’s connection with the community and existing relationships with relatives and friends.
- The relationship the child has with the other parent.
- If there are any domestic violence charges against the other parent. It is more likely that the court will grant you permission to relocate with your children if the relocation is due to domestic violence at the hands of the other parent.
- Whether the relocating parent will continue to promote a good relationship between the child and the non-moving parent. If you are moving far away, the court will want to make sure that there is a plan set in place for the children to maintain contact with their other parent.
The judge is likely to be the most concerned about how the parent moving is going to maintain the children’s relationship with the other parent when they move. They will look to whether the non-residential parent has been active in the children’s lives, what the benefits for the children would be if they move, as well as the detriments, and the options that the judge has while trying to create a new parenting plan.
If parents want to come to an agreement themselves to avoid court and attorney costs, they can do so in a revised parenting plan. This plan will still need to be approved with the judge; however, it is likely the judge will have no problem agreeing to your plan if it is reasonable and will likely applaud you for working together. After the court accepts the agreed parenting plan or has a hearing and determines the move is in the child’s best interest, the parenting plan will have to be modified to fit the new schedule and circumstances.
Sometimes parents may decide that moving is not in the best interest of their children, and they will opt to move themselves without the children and give the other parent the new responsibility of becoming residential parent. This makes sense if your children are doing well at school and integrated into their community, or close with extended family and may not want to move.
It is important to keep in mind that if a parent does move and does have consent from the other parent or permission from the court to take the children with them, Ohio has signed onto the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The UCCJEA governs jurisdictional issues in child custody and visitation cases. It requires that a valid custody order that is obtained in Ohio will apply throughout the United States, and a valid custody order from any other state will still apply in Ohio. Even if you move to a different state, the custody order that you created with your ex-spouse will always apply and you must always follow it.
Overall, relocating with children in Ohio is a complex issue with many moving parts that may need to be addressed. As much as you want to do what is best for your children, the court is also always going to look to the best interests of your children while making any decisions in your case that may affect them.
Questions? Contact one of our attorneys at Kirkland & Sommers.