Legal Blog

Understanding Relocation Custody Cases: Navigating Complex Family Legal Matters

Moving house concept with cardboard boxes and belongingsRelocation custody cases, also known as move-away cases, arise when one parent desires to move with their child to a new location, typically a significant distance away from the other parent. These cases present complex legal and emotional challenges that affect the lives of all parties involved.

Defining Relocation Custody Cases

A relocation custody case is a legal matter that arises when a custodial parent, the one with primary physical custody of the child, wishes to relocate to a different geographic area. This can be within the same state or across state lines. The relocation might be due to various reasons, such as a new job opportunity, family circumstances, or personal reasons.

These cases can be contentious because the move often results in a significant disruption of the child’s life and the relationship with the non-relocating parent. The non-relocating parent, or the one without primary physical custody, may object to the relocation, fearing that it will limit their ability to spend time with the child.

Relocation cases can stem from a variety of factors, including:

  1. Employment opportunities: The relocating parent may be offered a job or career advancement in a different location, compelling them to consider the move.
  2. Family support: A relocating parent may want to move closer to family members or a support network to help raise the child.
  3. Safety concerns: Relocation might be driven by concerns about safety, such as escaping an abusive relationship or moving to a safer neighborhood.
  4. Educational opportunities: A relocating parent may want to provide their child with better educational opportunities by moving to a region with superior schools or educational programs.
  5. Personal reasons: Sometimes, parents wish to relocate for personal reasons, such as wanting to live in a different environment or to start a new chapter in their lives.

Legal Considerations

Relocation custody cases are highly sensitive, and the courts take various factors into account to make decisions in the best interests of the child. Some legal considerations include:

  1. Best interests of the child: The court’s primary concern is the well-being of the child. They consider the child’s relationship with each parent, the impact of the move on the child’s life, and their emotional and physical needs.
  2. Parenting plan modification: If the court approves the relocation, it may need to modify the existing parenting plan to accommodate the new circumstances. This could involve changes to visitation schedules and custody arrangements.
  3. Notice and consent: The relocating parent typically needs to provide adequate notice to the non-relocating parent and may require their consent to relocate. If the non-relocating parent objects, a court hearing is usually necessary.
  4. Burden of proof: In many cases, the burden of proof falls on the relocating parent to demonstrate that the move is in the child’s best interests. They must provide evidence to support their reasons for the relocation.
  5. Mediation and negotiation: In some instances, parents can resolve relocation disputes through mediation or negotiation outside of court. This can be a less adversarial way to reach a solution.

Relocation custody cases are challenging legal matters that require careful consideration of the child’s best interests and the rights of both parents. The courts aim to make decisions that provide stability and well-being for the child, while respecting the rights of both relocating and non-relocating parents. It’s essential for all parties involved to seek legal counsel and work towards a solution that prioritizes the child’s welfare and emotional needs during these often difficult and emotionally charged situations.


Cheryl Hepfer | 240.507.1752

Cheryl Hepfer is a highly-regarded attorney who has practiced family law for more than 40 years. She has been rated by her peers and is listed in Best Lawyers in America and as a top lawyer in the Washingtonian, Bethesda Magazine, and Super Lawyers. She is past president of both the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the International Academy of Family Lawyers.