Legal Matters: Balancing of Parents' Rights

One of the most hotly-contested issues in the custody law today is the right to relocate with the children.

In the era of joint custody awards and split-week orders, parents have a bigger part in their children's lives than ever. In the 1960's, mothers would often get the children and dad would get a couple weekends of month.

Not so today.

Relocation involves balancing the custodial parent's right to live and work where they choose with the non-custodial parent's right to maintain their regular relationship and visitation with the children.

In a situation where there is infrequent contact between parent and child, relocation may not be a problem. But for a father who has visits every weekend and coaches his son's little league team, a mother who wants to move 1,000 miles away for a new job can be extremely distressing.

Should she be allowed to go? These are some of the factors courts will find relevant:

  • What kind of job will she have? Is it a promotion? Will she make more money to better support the children?
  • Does the mother have a specific plan for what she intends to do when she moves?
  • Where will she live? Does she have photographs? Has she obtained a lease? What are the neighborhood and community like? What school will the children attend?
  • Does the school have specific facilities or ratings which make it attractive?

Solid answers to these question will impress the court.

If she is allowed to take the child, what can be done to make up the kind of visitation the father has now? In the above example, she has a very heavy burden. There may not be substitute visitation of the quality now enjoyed.

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