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How does relocation affect child custody negotiations?

Although agreeing to a child custody and visitation plan can be challenging even under the best circumstances, a parent’s intention to relocate can throw another wrench in the process. Here are a few tips that may help parties reach a resolution sooner.

First, remember to put your child’s welfare first. This is especially pertinent if a parent’s decision to relocate was voluntary, rather than job mandated. In other words, make sure that the purpose of the move is to improve you and your child’s quality of life, rather than to hurt your spouse.

After all, the best interest of the child is the legal standard by which a court will evaluate any custody and visitation proposals. If a child is already thriving in his or her current environment, the court may view continuity and stability to be preferable to the disruption that results from a move. A court may also want evidence, perhaps in the form of expert testimony from a child psychiatrist or psychologist, that the physical distance from the other parent won’t be harmful to the child.

Finally, keep in mind that that are creative solutions to child custody and visitation. Many courts recognize the benefit of dual parenting and are open to granting joint custody. In fact, parents might share joint legal custody but only one may have sole physical custody. In that arrangement, both parents would be responsible for legal decisions affecting the child in areas such as medical care, education, or other needs. In the alternative, if physical distance makes it too difficult to share joint legal custody, creative approaches to visitation can still be obtained for the non-custodial parent.

Source: Huffington Post, “6 Things to Expect and Consider When Relocating with Children After Divorce,” Andrea Moore, Feb. 17, 2014

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