How to Stop an Ex From Leaving the State With Children

By Kay Bosworth

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In this mobile society, people can relocate in pursuit of better job opportunities or better housing, to be closer to families, to join a new partner or simply to seek a different lifestyle. When such a move involves a divorce and relocating with the children, however, courts have jurisdiction over the children and therefore over the proposed relocation. A parent who opposes his ex-spouse's plans to relocate with the children should first try calm, rational persuasion to convince the ex to stay. If that fails, the next step may be the courts.

Step 1

Research the laws in your state. Some states require notification or a petition to the court, according to how far the other parent plans to move. In states where the custodial parent must notify the other parent of plans to relocate, the non-custodial parent must file an objection with the court if he opposes the move. In most states, laws define how a court must decide whether the custodial parent can relocate with the children. Courts cannot forbid an ex-spouse to move out of the jurisdiction, but they can deny permission to take the children.

Step 2

Hire an attorney. Your divorce decree may include a relocation clause. If the clause allows relocation with the children, a lawyer can best advise you on legal recourse and strategies to keep your ex-spouse from leaving the state with your children. The ex-spouse must be able to prove that the move is in the best interests of the child and that you will still have access to visit.

Step 3

Prepare to demonstrate that the move will have a detrimental effect on the child. Protesting a move to a nearby location probably won't go far in court. A proposed relocation across the country, or out of the country, however, would affect your visitation rights and could be cause for an objection. It might be necessary to prove that the new living conditions would be detrimental to the child. If you suspect that your ex plans a substantial move without seeking your, or the court's, permission, you must file an emergent petition. Essentially, you need an injunction that prohibits her from leaving the state.

Seek a change in custody. If you have custody of the child, the other parent can't legally relocate with the child. Gaining custody, however, is a time-consuming process. It would be necessary to prove that there has been a significant change in circumstances. It could be shown that the present custody arrangement presents a threat to the child because of abusive behavior, drug or alcohol abuse or threats to abduct the child by the custodial parent. Proposed relocation alone doesn't generally constitute a substantial change in circumstances sufficient to warrant a custody change.