Can I Move Away with Our Children if I Have Primary Custody?

October 20, 2022 | J. Benjamin Stevens | Share:

When parents get divorced, it’s most common for them to continue to live in the same city or, at least, within a short distance of each other. This makes sharing custody of their children and being full participants in the day-to-day activities much more feasible for everyone. However, one of the most frequent questions we get from a divorced primary parent involves accepting new job or relationship opportunities that will require them to move away from their children’s hometown. These are some of the most difficult decisions that a parent can face following a divorce, and the “right” answer will depend on several factors. The two most important factors are discussed below.


Parental Consent

 Even if you have primary custody of the child, if both parents don’t consent to the move, the family court judge will typically have built-in reservations when reviewing the case. In almost every situation, science has proven that children do best when they have regular access to and interactions with both of their parents. To disrupt this daily or weekly in-person relationship could have a negative effect on the child’s well-being and future growth and development, something most judges treat as sacred.

However, if both parents have discussed the anticipated move and both parents agree that the move is a good decision, the family court judge will be far more likely to approve the primary parent’s request to relocate the child. The Court may still be asked to help resolve what the future parenting time for the parent remaining behind looks like, but that’s a much more streamlined modification case compared to a fully contested relocation modification case.


Primary Parent’s Motivation for Moving

 There are several reasons a parent may wish to move to a new town or state. If the other parent doesn’t agree to the child moving with the primary parent, the Court will be very interested in what the true motivation is for the move. If the judge finds evidence that the reason is not in the child’s best interest, the judge will most likely not allow the custodial parent to take the child with them. However, if the judge believes that the reasons for moving away are beneficial for the child, even indirectly, then they may allow the custodial parent to take the child with them to the new town.

One common reason that the request to move is often allowed is the parent getting a new job that pays a higher salary, thus providing a better or more stable lifestyle and better benefits for the parent and child. Another reason we see quite often is because the parent has decided to move back to their hometown where a large extended family or social network is there to help rebuild their lives and assist with childcare.

One situation that often seems to cause the most contested relocation cases are those where a party is moving to pursue a new romantic relationship. Unless the relationship is well documented, exclusive, and long-term, uprooting your child to pursue a new romantic partner will usually be viewed very skeptically by most family court judges who prefer stability for the children they are tasked with protecting.


Final Thoughts

 If you are a custodial parent considering a move, it is important to consult with an experienced family law attorney beforehand. An attorney can help you understand your rights as a custodial parent and help you develop a relocation plan that is not only in the best interest of your children but also one that might be agreeable to the parent who will be left behind, making a contest trial unnecessary.


If you’re struggling with issues surrounding child custody or need help finding the best ways to build a cooperative parenting agreement with your co-parent, talking with an experienced family court attorney will help. Ben Stevens has provided exceptional legal counsel and support to families throughout South Carolina for over twenty-five years, handling all matters of family law, such as child custody, divorce, and separation. Our firm is well-equipped to handle all divorce and family law matters, no matter your circumstances. Contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or to schedule an initial consultation.


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Contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or to schedule an initial consultation.



Aggressive, creative, and compassionate are words Ben Stevens' colleagues freely use to describe him as a divorce and family law attorney. Mr. Stevens is a Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and is a Board Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He is one of only two attorneys in South Carolina with those simultaneous distinctions. He has held numerous leadership positions in the AAML, and he currently serves as one of its National Vice Presidents. Mr. Stevens has a statewide practice and regularly appears all across South Carolina.  His practice is focused on complex divorce and child custody cases.

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