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Relocation Cases in Divorce: Who Stays with the Children?


One of the most contentious aspects of a typical divorce is child custody. Most parents want to spend as much time with their children after a divorce as possible and are willing to fight in court to ensure that happens. By the end, even an uncontested divorce can become heated as both spouses do what they can to win their parental rights.

However, when a divorce is settled, there is nothing that guarantees it is the end of parental right concerns. In particular, if one parent needs to relocate, the situation can once again be turned upside-down with complications.

Why Do You Need to Relocate?

Trying to relocate as a divorced parent is going to raise many questions. Namely, why is your relocation necessary? Relocating will require the eventual modification of your divorce agreement, and the court will not approve of it without good reason.

In general, there are three reasons that warrant a relocation modification:

  • You must move to keep gainful employment.
  • You must move to be nearer to family in need, such as an elder who needs regular care.
  • You are moving into the property of a new spouse.

Without any of the aforementioned reasons for relocation, you might be facing an uphill challenge, but not one that is impossible. It is highly encouraged that you always talk to a family law attorney about your parental relocation to decide upon the best plan of action. With an attorney’s insight, you can decide how to present your case to the court, or even mediate a relocation agreement with your ex-spouse.

Who Will Get to Stay with the Kids?

The biggest concern of a parental relocation case is who will retain primary or even sole child custody rights. Relocating to another city, county, or state will place significant barriers between you and your ex-spouse. Expecting your child to visit either one of your frequently will likely be extremely difficult, if not altogether impossible.

If the court is called upon to come up with a solution, then it will do what it always does and consider the child’s best interests first and foremost. Where will the child be happiest? What community will feel more welcoming to the child? These questions and more will be considered by the judge presiding over your relocation case. Keep in mind that courts tend to assume it will always be best to keep the child put, giving sole custody to whatever parent is not making the lengthy move. Imagine how troublesome it has been for you to pack up and move in the past, and now imagine your child going through the same hardship. This is the same scenario the court will want to avoid whenever reasonable.

Visitations Agreements Offer a Potential Solution

If you are planning on moving to a location too far away to regularly swap custody, like once or twice a month, then a visitation agreement will most likely be the end result of your relocation case. Visitation schedules often revolve around national holidays or important events for your family, such as a birthday or annual vacation. As an example of a common visitation agreement, you might be able to decide that your child will visit the parent who moves away every holiday but live with the other the rest of the year. Ultimately, it is the unique details of your case and family life that will decide how to schedule visitation.

For all the family law guidance you need, whether you are relocating, modifying a divorce agreement, or making a visitation schedule, look no further than the Rhode Island divorce attorneys of McIntyre Tate LLP. We are truly a leading name when it comes to family law litigation, mediation, and casework in Rhode Island, having helped countless clients throughout our communities across the last 30+ years. In total, our attorneys have more than 150 years of collective legal experience.

See what our caliber of service can do for you and your family in your relocation case. Call (401) 351-7700 or schedule a consultation today.

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