How to Leave the State of Utah With a Child Due to Divorce
By Elizabeth Rayne, J.D.
Updated April 01, 2020
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Whether you are planning on leaving the state of Utah before or after filing for divorce, moving may complicate your custody arrangement. Divorced parents in Utah have a parenting plan that determines their custody arrangement and the parenting plan may include a provision that allows the custodial parent to move out of state with the children. However, you must follow the state's notification laws or risk being found in contempt of court.
Utah law defines "relocation" as moving 150 miles or more from the noncustodial parent; thus, you may move less than 150 miles with your child without getting permission from the court or notifying the other parent. However, if you have not yet filed for divorce, you may only file for divorce in Utah if you or your spouse is a resident of the state. Therefore, if you move out of state with your child and your spouse no longer lives in the state, it is unlikely you will be able to file for divorce in Utah.
Parenting Plan Provisions
You may bring up your plans to move out of state during the divorce process. The parenting plan may include a provision that deals with what happens if and when you move out of state and include how the schedule will change after the move. Thus, the court may add such a provision to the plan if you advise the court of your intent to move during the divorce proceedings, or you may incorporate the provision into a marital settlement agreement.
Moving Before Divorce
Utah has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which makes it somewhat difficult for a parent to move a child out of state before filing for divorce. The UCCJEA provides that only the child's "home state" may make an initial custody determination, which is generally the state where the child has lived for at least six months. If you move with your child before filing for divorce, Utah may continue to have jurisdiction, meaning it is the only state that may make a custody determination until you and your child have lived in another state for at least six months or otherwise qualify for the new state's jurisdiction. In the meantime, your spouse would have the option to file for divorce and custody in Utah.
Relocation After Divorce
If your divorce is finalized and you are the custodial parent, you may move out of the state with your child, provided you follow the notification requirement. However, if the out of state move is less than 150 miles, you do not need to provide notification. For moves 150 miles or more, you must let the other parent know at least 60 days in advance. Either parent may ask the court to review the request to move and determine a new parent-time schedule. Utah courts will generally allow the parent to move, unless the other parent provides evidence that it is not in the child's best interest. To make this determination, the court will consider the reason for moving, additional costs and difficulties to each parent in exercising parent-time, economic resources of each parent, and any other factors the court deems relevant.
- American Bar Association: Relocation of the Custodial Parent: A State by State Survey
- Utah State Legislature: Section 30-3-37. Relocation.
- Utah Legal Clinic: Summary of Utah Divorce Law
- Legal Resource Center on Violence Against Women: Utah UCCJEA
- Brigham Young University: Utah Marriage & Divorce Laws
Elizabeth Rayne earned her J.D. from Penn State University and has been practicing law since 2009, advising clients on issues ranging from employment law to nonprofit management. For two years, she served as a contributing editor for the "Vermont Environmental Monitor."