Can my child and I move out of state after my divorce?

Your California employer just gave you a big promotion with a big salary hike and life is looking great. Only one catch: Your new job is in another state. Since you are a divorced parent, now what? Can you and your child(ren) relocate with no problems? Unfortunately, the answer may depend on how your ex-spouse reacts to your proposed move.

Before you panic, find your divorce decree and do the following:

  • Check it to verify that the court awarded you primary physical custody, also called sole physical custody, of your child(ren). If so, so far so good. If it awards joint physical custody to you and your ex-spouse, either (s)he must agree to your move or the two of you must fight it out in court
  • Next check to see whether or not the decree contains any restrictions regarding a post-divorce relocation. If not, you are still on track. If it does, you will need to convince a judge that (s)he should lift the restriction(s).
  • Figure out how to go about talking with your ex-spouse so as to make the best possible case for your relocation, including how it will benefit your child(ren) as well as you.

New parenting plan

Even if your ex-spouse does not object to your upcoming move, the two of you need to draft a new parenting plan that specifies the following:

  • How far away from “home” you and your child(ren) now will live
  • How you and your ex-spouse will handle your child(ren)’s transportation and its associated costs when they travel back and forth between their parents
  • The increased parenting opportunities your ex-spouse will receive, such as more time during your child(ren)’s summer vacations, spring and winter breaks, etc.

Court permission

Keep in mind that you need to obtain court permission to move out of state with your child(ren) even if your ex-spouse agrees to your move. You cannot just pack up and go. The judge, or at least the court, that granted your divorce must now “sign off” on your relocation. If you present a mutually agreeable new parenting plan that you and your ex-spouse worked out together, the judge is far more likely to grant you permission to move. Absent that, you must convince him or her that this move really is in the best interests of your child(ren.)