Modifying a Parenting Schedule Due to Relocation: How to Make it Work

  • By:Wendy Shane

Most often parenting schedules are established when both parties are living in the same state. But what happens when one parent has to move out of state? Modifying a parenting schedule is challenging when two parties can’t agree on the terms. Trying to work this out on your own is a great first step, as this can lead to a viable solution without requiring a judge to decide the future of your family.

Consider a situation where you are relocated out of state by your employer. If you don’t move with your job, you are unemployed with few options because of the current high unemployment rate. As a parent, you will want to negotiate a parenting schedule that is in the best interests of your children, while also considering your own financial future at the same time.

Your Decision to Relocate

As a parent, choosing to relocate can be difficult. While you can relocate yourself and allow the children to remain with the other parent, you don’t have the right to simply relocate and expect that your children can come with you.

If the other parent agrees to the children moving with you, then the process is easy.  But if the other parent is resistant to relocating the children, you will need to follow the proper legal steps to modify the parenting schedule.  If you are trying to relocate and you are the primary custodial parent, the court will examine the reasons for the move and if this opportunity is in the best interests of your children.

If you move without the children, your parenting schedule could change and might include you returning to the area for long weekends to visit, or having the children for school vacations and the summer. It’s a hard decision to relocate, and you will want to consider all of your options.

In Massachusetts, you cannot move with your children if you do not have the other parent’s agreement.  If the other parent does not agree, you will need to go to Court to obtain a Court Order allowing you to move with the children.  You must be able to show the Court that the move is not only advantageous to you but that the move is in your children’s best interest.

Negotiation to Agree on Relocation Parameters

There are times when relocation is your only viable option if you want to remain employed. Working with attorneys can help both parties come to a reasonable agreement. If you are the party trying to relocate, you may need to give up substantial time with your children during school vacations if your plan is to move the children far from their current home. You will want to give the other parent reasonable accommodations that include as much parenting time as they enjoyed pre-move. If you are the one moving but the children are better served to stay put, you can expect to be the one making concessions in order to see your children as much as possible.

Expect to Pay Travel Expenses

When you can work out a parenting schedule, the parent relocating may be required to pay any travel expenses that are incurred so the children can visit the other parent. The goal is to keep the relationship with the non-relocating parent as normal as possible, without adding the burden of paying travel costs to spend time with their own children.

Consider the Strain on the Children

Children that are older may express a desire to remain with one parent. As your children get older, they may not want to relocate to a different area. This will make it harder for you to relocate and bring your children with you. When the children want to remain in the area where they have grown up and have roots, it may be hard to prove that moving your children to a new location is in their best interests. If the relationship between the non-moving parent and the children will be negatively affected by the move, the court may prevent the children from relocating.

When Children Spend Most of Their Time With One Parent

If the children spend the majority of their time with one parent, relocation can be a bit easier to achieve. When the opportunity for a much better job arises, or the move would mean the children would be surrounded by family, this can be enough to warrant a relocation with the children. Parenting time with the other parent will still need to be worked out, but the court is more likely to approve a relocation request when there are clear benefits to the children relocating.

Relocation Should Not be Retaliatory

The courts see plenty of relocation filings that are not in the best interests of the children. If you don’t have a new job, or there’s no real reason to relocate, taking the children away from their other parent doesn’t benefit the children. When you try to relocate without giving the other parent proper notice, you risk losing the custody rights that you have. Relocation should not be a way to hurt your ex and moving the children should only be considered if it improves their lives.

Relocation is not taken lightly by the court system. You must be able to show that there is a benefit to moving and that the relationship between your children and their other parent will not be negatively affected. Trying to negotiate a new parenting schedule without the court’s involvement is the best way to move forward for everyone.

Posted in: Visitation & Co-Parenting