One of the most difficult challenges in pursuing divorce is the realization that you may not get to see your children as much as you want to. As a non-custodial parent, it is easy to feel as though your voice is inconsequential when it comes to your kids. However, your opinion regarding their well-being is just as important.
If your ex-spouse has decided to relocate a significant distance, is there anything you can do to stop your kids from going along? Determining factors include your specific custody arrangement, as well as the best interests of the children.
Joint custody requirements
By definition, it may seem as though joint custody implies both equal input and visitation rights. Obviously, if one parent decides to move to a distant state, the only way to maintain visitation is to constantly shuttle children back and forth or agree to long-term stays with each parent. This is when the distinction between legal and physical custody comes into play.
Legal custody grants each party an equal say in major life decisions that impact the child. Physical custody implies that the child also has a semi-permanent home with each parent. It is possible to have a joint legal arrangement without having joint physical custody of your children. This is common when two parents live in different states.
When both sides retain legal custody, neither can relocate the children without first proving that the move is in the children’s best interests. This is the responsibility of whichever parent is pushing the relocation. To make a strong case, he or she may cite familial connections, access to medical treatment or education opportunities.
If a judge decides that the parent has offered sufficient evidence, then the court may approve the move. This can happen whether you agree or disagree.
Sole custody requirements
When your ex-spouse has sole custody of your children, the onus of forming an argument against it falls on your shoulders. To prevent the other parent from relocating your kids, you will have to show that the move could impact them negatively. Uprooting a child from a familiar environment can create needless difficulties if the move is not necessary, so you may have valid grounds to prevent it.
Because both parents typically care deeply about the needs of their kids, these debates can become heated. The most successful arrangements involve fair compromises that benefit the children first and foremost.