It is a serious issue, and it happens a lot. One parent wants to move a long distance away within the state or even out of state. This changes everything. The amount of time you will spend with your kids, the way holidays are managed, your ability to access your children’s school, medical care and other important aspects of your parenting relationship.
The reasons for relocation vary with every case. It may be a job offer, a new spouse or significant other, or a home in a neighborhood with better schools. But how can your ex think that moving the kids away from their other parent is what’s best for them?
If your ex has notified you that they plan to move away with the children, you should know that your child custody order and North Carolina law might prevent that from happening. If you have a child custody order, you should read it carefully to see if it has terms preventing such a move without further approval by the Court.
When one parent announces plans to move, the other parent has a right to object to the move and have the court consider whether the move should be considered a change in circumstances. If it is, the court will determine whether relocation is in the children’s best interest.
How will the court determine what is in the best interest of my children?
North Carolina courts consider a number of factors when determining whether a move is in a child’s best interest in a relocation case. There are some standard factors, but the courts can consider any relevant factors.
Some of the factors the court will consider include:
- The presence of family and friends in both areas
- The living arrangements enjoyed by each parent
- Your occupation and work schedule, and those of your ex
- Whether one of you has traditionally been the primary caregiver
- Each of your ability to care for the children
- The kids’ relationship with each parent
- What family support networks exist through each parent
- The educational opportunities in your area and the area of relocation
Working with your attorney, you should come up with an argument for why the move is not in the children’s best interest, if you believe that to be the case. You will wish to present evidence to support your argument. This might be the opinion of a child custody evaluator, for example, or simply the testimony of your children’s teachers or spiritual advisors.
Your ex will make an argument about why the move is in the children’s best interest. He or she will present evidence that supports their argument, as well. The court will listen to both arguments and the evidence supporting them and make a determination.
Will my children be asked to choose?
If your children are of an age where they can understand the need for truthful testimony and have a basis for their opinions, the court may decide to hear their testimony. The law does not require the court to hear the testimony of a child, but it can be allowed. The older your children are, the more likely the court will take their opinions into account.
What if this is a military deployment?
Under North Carolina law, the mere fact that one parent is being reassigned or deployed is not, on its own, a good enough reason to modify a child custody order. However, the court can consider how a deployment would impact the child’s best interests.
If your ex is proposing to move away with the kids, you need to make any objections known quickly and ensure that the proper motions are filed with the Court. You should contact a lawyer as soon as possible after learning of the proposed move.