It can take a long time for a family to adjust to shared custody arrangements after a divorce or parental separation. Establishing a custody order may require weeks of intensive negotiations or possibly a trip to family court. After the adults in a family establish a custody order, they may quickly settle into a new routine of custody exchanges and regular communication with their co-parent. Any major adjustments to family circumstances at that point could trigger significant challenges.
Someone currently subject to a shared custody order might worry about a co-parent trying to move as a way to alter the division of parenting time. Those hoping to rebuild after ending a relationship may also worry about whether they can move to pursue new opportunities. Who decides whether a relocation is appropriate after a divorce or breakup?
Parents or the courts make the final decision
Every custody arrangement is unique and reflects either an agreement reached by the parents or a judge’s belief about what may be in the best interests of the children. Some parents specifically include provisions about relocations or even vacation travel in their parenting plans. Others have to rely on state law to address a relocation request.
The rules about move-away scenarios in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are slightly different, but the same general standards apply in both jurisdictions. A parent proposing a long-distance move or a relocation out of the state typically needs to send prior notice to both the family courts and their co-parent.
If they do not receive approval from their co-parent to move, then they may need to litigate. Family law judges can hear the perspective of both parents before determining whether a relocation request might be in the best interests of the children. They have the authority to approve a move-away request or deny it. They can also modify the existing custody order to ensure that the relocation of one parent does not negatively impact the parental rights of the other.
Current parenting arrangements, the potential challenges created by the relocation and other factors can influence both a parent’s options and how the courts may view the situation. Planning carefully before proposing a relocation or responding quickly to a proposed move can both be important for parents hoping to preserve their parental rights.