Joint child custody is a careful dance between you and your ex-spouse. It is a standard move and counter-move of scheduling play dates, soccer practice and doctor's appointments can take a toll on families. One of the biggest problems with joint custody is that it inhibits your ability pick up and move. If you are the custodial parent, then your ability to move for any reason could be difficult. Of course, the level of difficulty depends upon how far you wish to relocate, however, the burden is still there.
The reason that it is difficult to move is because it could negatively impact your ex-spouse's parenting time with the children. If you, like most divorced couples, share custody of the children, then any decision impacting the children must be made by the both of you. Decisions like big moves are included in these restrictions.
The most common, and easiest, way to get a relocation order is with the express consent of the other spouse. Maybe your ex-spouse is willing to move, or maybe they are willing to exchange less daily time with the children in exchange for longer vacations. There is room for negotiation that might prove cheaper and easier than resorting to litigation.
If you are unable to get the consent of your ex-spouse, then you may always file a motion with the court to approve your relocation order. As with everything in family law, the court will always consider what is in the best interests of the child. Generally, the court will consider the following facts:
- The impact on the children's education and social lives.
- The benefits of the move such as a new job or proximity to family.
- The distance of the move.
- Any changes in the cost of living.
If you are considering a move, then you may want to speak to a family law attorney. Relocation orders can be complicated, and it is usually best to consult with an attorney before proceeding. The court will typically ask you to come up with a reasonable plan to modify visitation to account for the distance and how traveling will be handled. This will show the court that you affirmatively consider the interests of the child, and that the move is not vindictive or in "bad faith."