Relocating With Your Child After Divorce: Proving Relocation is Best for Your Child

Young girl resting in a box next to teddy bear after relocating with after divorce.

Divorce is a major life change, for both the divorcing spouses and their children. Typically, after a divorce, it is ideal for parents to live near enough to one another for both of them to spend time regularly with the children. But life often continues to change after divorce: new jobs, new relationships, new opportunities. Sometimes, those opportunities make it necessary for one parent to move a significant distance away from the other. How do Utah courts view relocating after divorce?

Relocating With a Child After Divorce

Under Utah law, “relocation” means moving more than 150 miles away from the residence of the other parent. That means that a proposed move doesn’t necessarily have to be out of state in order to trigger Utah’s legal requirements regarding relocation with a child after divorce.

A parent who intends to relocate with the child, for whatever reason, must give the other parent 60 days advance written notice of the intended move. The notice needs to affirm that the parent time schedule will be followed, and that neither parent will interfere with the other parent’s rights under a court order or prior agreement between the parents. The parents may agree to the relocation and any necessary changes to the parent time schedule.

Of course, it’s often the case that parents don’t agree; the parent who opposes the move may feel that the increased distance will make it harder for them to be a regular part of their child’s life. If the parents can’t agree, either one of them may file a motion with the court regarding the notice of relocation, or the court may decide to schedule a hearing on its own.

In deciding whether to permit a custodial parent to relocate with a child, the court will consider whether a relocation is in the best interest of the child. The court may consider any factors it deems relevant in making this evaluation. For instance, if the custodial parent is moving to take a job with a better salary, and the move will offer the child better educational opportunities and the chance to be closer to extended family, a court may permit the move, with an appropriate change to parent time arrangements based on the circumstances.

On the other hand, if the custodial parent appears to be moving primarily to spite the other parent or to make it more difficult for the other parent to see the child, a court would likely reject the custodial parent’s request to relocate with the child. If the custodial parent decides to go ahead and relocate anyway, the court may order a change of custody.

Relocation and Transportation Costs for Parent Time

Assuming that a Utah court determines that a parental relocation is in a child’s best interests, the court then needs to consider and allocate transportation costs for the child to visit the non-custodial parent. This analysis takes into account factors like the reason for the relocation, the financial resources of both parents, any additional costs or difficulties to both parents in exercising their parent time, and any other factors the court considers relevant.

Because one parent’s decision to relocate is the cause for any increased transportation costs and difficulty in exercising parent time, the court will often order the relocating parent to pay most or all of the transportation costs for the child to visit the other parent.

Planning Ahead for the Issue of Relocating With a Child After Divorce

It’s common for parents to want a fresh start after divorce. If your marriage was the primary reason you lived where you did, you may want to move to a location with better job opportunities, better educational opportunities with your child, or simply to be closer to your extended family and support network.

Because relocating with a child after divorce is so common, it makes sense to plan ahead for it and provide for it in your divorce decree. You and your spouse may talk about the circumstances in which you would consider relocation acceptable, and how you would want to handle the costs and complications that would go along with it.

How a Family Law Attorney Helps in Relocation Cases

Relocation cases are rarely cut-and-dried. There is usually a good reason for the custodial parent’s relocation, and there are typically advantages involved for the child—perhaps more economic security, a better school, or the chance to grow up near grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

That said, it is undeniable that there are difficulties involved in relocation. A child who used to get to see both parents on a near-daily basis now may need to go weeks or months without seeing one parent in person. It is more challenging to maintain a strong parent-child relationship when the parent and child live far apart. In short, a move may be good for a child in some ways, but bad in others. The court has to decide if the good outweighs the bad. That determination often comes down to the strength of competing narratives, and an experienced family law attorney can help present a court with the evidence it needs to rule in favor of the attorney’s client.

If you are considering relocating with your child, opposing the other parent’s relocation, or planning for the possibility of relocating with a child after divorce, contact BartonWood online or call us at (801) 326-8300 to schedule a consultation.