Just when you thought your post-divorce life was settling down, with your children adapting well to the new normal, your boss offers you the chance of a lifetime — a promotion and the large salary increase that goes with it. However, there’s a catch. You’ll have to relocate to another state. Now what?
The one thing you can’t do is simply pack up your household items, buckle your kids into their car seats, and take off. Depending on the laws of the state in which you live, you must do specific things in order to legally relocate with your children.
No matter where you currently live or which court granted your divorce, you need court permission to relocate. You also need to notify your former spouse of your intention to relocate so he or she has the opportunity to object to your proposed move if you cannot get him or her on board with the idea. It’s not that you need his or her permission per se, but you do need his or her acquiescence or face possible relitigation of custody issues like during your divorce.
Virtually all states require you to notify your former spouse in writing of your planned upcoming move. Most states require you to send him or her a certified letter. It goes without saying that you should keep a copy of your notice, plus your return receipt if your state requires notice via certified mail.
What Happens Next
If your former spouse has no objections to your proposed relocation, you can then file a motion for modification — possibly jointly with him or her — of your existing divorce decree that includes the valid reasons for your move and a revised parenting plan or visitation schedule that allows your former spouse to maintain his or her parent-child relationships as much as possible.
If, however, your former spouse objects to your move, you’ll still need to file a motion for modification and serve him or her with it. He or she will then have a specified amount of time, usually around 15 days, in which to file his or her objections. At that point the court will schedule a hearing at which both of you will need to appear and present evidence as to why your respective positions should prevail. Unfortunately, this hearing could become a full-blown custody battle if your former spouse not only objects to your move, but also asks the court for full custody of your children.