My ex is wanting to move out of state with our kids. How will this affect our custody and parent-timeshare order?
Unless your decree says something different, generally a relocating parent must provide 60 days advance written notice of their intentions to the other parent. This notice must contain statements affirming that they will follow the parent-time provisions in Utah Code 30-3-37 or a schedule approved by both parents and neither parent will interfere with the other’s parental rights per court ordered parent-time arrangements or the schedule approved by both parents.
Ideally at this juncture both parents will discuss the impending move and future custody and parent-timeshare arrangements, including how to share transportation costs. If the parents cannot agree on what to do then either one may file a motion asking the court to review the notice of relocation and decide future custody and parent-time arrangements. The court will generally try to hold a hearing in advance of the move.
The court’s primary focus at the hearing will be determining whether the move is in the best interest of the child. In addition to the usual factors the court would consider when deciding custody in any other context, the court will examine the relocating parent’s motivation for moving, the distance involved, and any additional costs or difficulty associated with exercising parent-time because of the move. If the court believes the move is good for the child it will allow the custodial parent to move with the child and decide an appropriate revised schedule for the nonresidential parent. If the court does not believe the move is in the child’s best interest it may order a change in custody to the non-relocating parent and decide what parent-time will be for the relocating parent.
As a general rule, courts understand that moving is a normal part of life for many parents. If a parent is moving away because of a compelling job opportunity or a work or military-related transfer the court tends to be more sympathetic. But, if a parent’s motivation for moving away is contrived or designed to exclude their co-parent from their children’s lives the court may not allow the children to relocate.
Regardless, if either parent moves away the minimum schedule the court will consider for the nonresidential parent of a school-age child is: (a) in years ending in a odd number, the nonresidential parent will get the Thanksgiving school break (Wed until Sunday) and Spring break (beginning the last day of school before the holiday until the day before school resumes), (b) in even-numbered years, the nonresidential parent will get the entire Christmas / Winter break school holiday and Fall school break, (c) 1/2 of the summer break or off-track time for consecutive weeks, and (d) one weekend per month at the option and expense of the nonresidential parent.
In terms of cost, Utah law presumes whoever is the relocating parent should pay travel costs except for summers which will be divided equally and the nonresidential parent’s right to a monthly weekend visit. However, the court may deviate from this presumption. Relevant factors include how much money each side makes, whether one or both parents have relocated before, and whether the nonresidential parent is current on child support.
As stated before, the court has discretion to deviate from these guidelines. If your court order contains different rules then you must follow what the court has ordered in your case.
Relocation cases can be complicated and the stakes are often high. Give us a call at 855-254-2600 to discuss your situation and learn how we can help.