Interstate Custody and Visitation Issues
What happens after a custody order is in place and one of the parents wants to relocate and take the child with them? If the move is merely from Greensboro to Winston-Salem, this may not that big of an issue, as long as the other parent has the means to travel 30 minutes to see the child and the parents can agree on school selection. However, if the parent decides to move to Texas for a job opportunity, or to be closer to family, this makes things a lot more difficult. A visitation schedule that was made when one parent lived in Greensboro and the other parent lived in High Point, is not going to be practical if one of those parents moves to Texas.
The question then becomes, can the parent who is relocating to another state, like Texas, take the child with him or her? North Carolina has developed case law on relocation and what the court must consider when determining if the relocation necessitates a modification of the custody order. Courts will modify a custody order only if there has been a substantial change in circumstances. Thus, the parent must show a substantial change in circumstances for the court to even consider the relocation, in order to have the court modify the custody order that is in place.
“A change in the custodial parent’s residence is not itself a substantial change in circumstances affecting the welfare of the child which justifies a modification of a custody decree.” Evans v. Evans, 138 N.C. App. 135 (N.C. App., 2000). Therefore, merely going to the court and saying that the other parent is moving to Texas, with no other facts focusing on the welfare of the child, will not be enough to get the court to modify the custody order. Instead, several factors must be considered, all centered on what is in the best interests of the child.
“In evaluating the best interests of the child in a proposed relocation, the trial court may appropriately consider several factors including: the advantages of the relocation in terms of its capacity to improve the life of the child; the motives of the custodial parent in seeking the move; the likelihood that the custodial parent will comply with visitation orders when he or she is no longer subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of North Carolina; the integrity of the noncustodial parent in resisting the relocation; and the likelihood that a realistic visitation schedule can be arranged which will preserve and foster the parental relationship with the noncustodial parent. “ Evans (N.C. App. 2000).
As you can likely see from the quoted case language above, there are many different factors that the court can consider in determining whether or not to modify the custody order. This gives the court a lot of discretion in making their determination. However, as mentioned previously, the mere fact of a relocation alone is not enough to justify modifying the custody order; some or all of the factors listed above also have to be analyzed in making such a determination. An experienced family law attorney can assist you in seeking to modify your custody order following a relocation.