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Illinois parents know that child custody arrangements are often difficult matters for everyone involved. When one parent decides to relocate, custody arrangements can get even more complicated.

One recent child custody dispute was so complex it took the United States Supreme Court to sort it out. The Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of an American father serving in the military whose 6-year-old daughter has been living with her mother in Scotland for three years. A lower court had dismissed the father’s appeal, saying that the matter was beyond its jurisdiction, but the Supreme Court reversed that ruling.

The Supreme Court’s decision doesn’t mean the dispute is over. The child is still in Scotland, and Chief Justice John Roberts noted that the Scottish courts could very well ignore the orders of U.S. courts.

Few child custody disputes are as contentious as this one but when one parent moves it can often throw child custody and visitation arrangements into chaos. When one parent objects to the other’s move – for instance, if the other parent is moving so far away that it will substantially interfere with visitation rights – the court may intervene. Each state has its own laws regarding relocation, but generally the laws of the state where the child’s custody arrangement was written apply, and generally the court must make a decision based upon what it determines are in the best interests of the child.

One way to avoid or minimize this kind of dispute is for parents to plan for the possibility of relocation when determining their child custody agreement. Perhaps neither parent plans to move at the time that they are first arranging child custody, but it’s always a good idea to prepare for that possibility as much as possible and at least include a provision of how the matter should be dealt with if it comes up later.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “Supreme Court rules for Army father in custody battle,” Lawrence Hurley and Jonathan Stempel, Feb. 19, 2013