It is widely known that children develop better when they are kept on fixed schedule and the experience little chaos or uncertainty in their household and school environments. This need for routine and limited change is the landscape a child needs to build security about the world and who he/she is. Life, however, is rarely that sedate and major upheavals happen unexpectedly on a daily basis. Divorce is certainly one these major life events that affect children in significant ways. Most children, though, can come through the process relatively unscathed if the parents can work together and make decisions that put the interests of the child first. One issue that is becoming more prevalent as technology makes the world smaller and smaller is the fact the people change jobs more often and are more likely to move for a new job opportunity. Normally, a person would have the option to leave with little regard to opinions of other, but all that changes if a child is involved. Sharing a child with another parent can make this decision more complicated and not necessarily entirely within the parent’s control. Relocating with a child when there is joint custody and shared parenting time may require court approval and often requires more planning and additional expense to make sure the move is accepted by other parent or gets the court’s okay. Divorced or separated parents may not be aware of this rule, so an outline of the legal restrictions on relocation will be discussed below.
Legal Guidelines on When and How Far a Parent Can Relocate
First, it is important to note that when the legal custody of a child is established via court order in Michigan, the child has a legal residence with each parent, which is why relocation decisions cannot be made by one parent alone. Further, in order to invoke a Michigan law that regulates parental relocations, the new residence must be located more than 100 miles from the child’s residence at the time of the original custody order. The law does not, however, apply in the following situations:
- the other parent consents to the move. Note that all relocations outside the State of Michigan must have court approval, even if the other parent consents;
- one parent has sole legal custody;
- the parents lived more than 100 miles apart when the custody order first issued;
- the child’s new legal residence is now closer to the other parent; or
- the original custody order included a provision about how the parents would handle relocations, and it was followed.
How a Court Decides Whether to Approve a Move
Absent one of the above circumstances, a parent wishing to relocate more than 100 away from the current residence will need a court’s approval. The law directs a judge to look at five factors to help them make this decision, including:
- whether the move will give the parent and child a chance at a better quality of life;
- the extent to which the parent complied with and exercised their parenting time, and whether the move is designed to undermine the parenting time schedule;
- whether the parent opposing the move is doing so to pay less child support;
- whether the court can modify the parenting time schedule such that both parents can maintain a full relationship with the child; and
- whether the move is to escape domestic violence.
Get Legal Advice
Relocating with a child to a new faraway place is a big deal that affects multiple people. Consequently, it is best to work with a knowledgeable family law attorney that can direct you on how to request or oppose such a move. The Clinton Township law firm of Iafrate & Salassa, P.C. understands the challenges that face parents both during and after divorce. Contact us to discuss your case at a free initial consultation.