Ideally, child custody and visitation are smooth sailings after a divorce. But what happens when a parent with custody wants to relocate with the children? How does this affect joint custody or visitation?
In Ohio, the parent who plans to relocate must file notice with both the other parent and the court. If the other parent contests the move, the family court judge will decide if relocation is in the child’s best interest.
Determining best interest
Ohio courts avoid changing an existing parenting plan without a compelling reason to do so. The parent who plans to move can only do so if the other parent agrees to the move or if the benefits of the move outweigh the detriments of making this change in the child’s living situation. Factors the judge will consider include the following:
- The child’s preference
- His or her relationship with siblings and other family members, as well as with the noncustodial parent
- The current level of adjustment at school and home
- Existing physical and mental health concerns for the child and/or either parent
- The distance of the new residence
The parent planning to move must prove these best interest factors in court. The parent who contests the move can provide documentation to support that the relocation is not in the child’s best interest.
Changing the parenting plan
If the noncustodial parent contests the move, he or she can request a hearing to change the parenting plan. If the judge approves, he or she would become the residential parent.
If the court approves the move, it may also update the parenting plan to reflect necessary changes in visitation. For example, the noncustodial parent may receive extended summer and vacation visitation with the child to account for limited visitation during the school year.
Either parent can seek legal representation during this process. In some cases, the original custody agreement will contain provisions about relocation to follow in the event of a move.