A Relocation Petition is made by the party that has physical custody and wants to move out of the jurisdiction of the court that granted the Custody Order. The non-custodial party can move out of the jurisdiction without permission of the court. The Court cannot make a party exercise visitation but it is encouraged.
The biggest reason for relocation petitions are economic ones. A custodial party gets a job offer in another state or remarries and their new significant other gets a job offer in another state or jurisdiction or sometimes a custodial party may want to move back in with their family for purposes of family support, no rent and a family member who can help out with daycare.
Generally, the Court will weigh the facts. One of the most important facts is the frequency the non-custodial party exercises their visitation. A non-custodial party that exercises his visitation will have a much better chance of stopping the custodial party from moving out of the jurisdiction than a non-custodial party that doesn’t frequently exercise their visitation time.
The Court doesn’t want to redo a whole custody order if it doesn’t have to. When a custodial party moves within a relatively small radius of where they used to live, the Court will generally allow it but place the burden for the transportation of the child on the custodial parent that moved away from the non-custodial parent. When I deal with situations like this, I usually request that the court that granted the original custody order, unless if that order came from a divorce, and granted the Relocation Petition, to retain jurisdiction and not let jurisdiction switch to where the child moved to after 6 months elapses. I insert that provision in the Order so if conditions change, the non-custodial parent won’t have to argue a custody petition in the new jurisdiction and the old jurisdiction is already familiar with the facts surrounding the matter.
When a party has a real economic reason to move, the Court will look at the relationship between the child and the non-custodial party and the age of the child and the distance the child is going to move to determine how detrimental the move will be to the relationship between the child and the non-custodial party. The non-custodial party may file a Custody Petition which the court will consider. On occasion the Court will order a Forensic Examination to help guide it as well as listening to the Attorney for the Child.
Relocation cases can really be difficult heart wrenching cases. Its like King Solomon splitting the baby in two. It can’t really be done. One party has to agree to give in or make the other party miserable. I have had cases where parents try to bring in previous bad acts to obtain an Order of Protection to help them in their attempt to relocate. Unless if the custodial parent really is unfit, it’s usually in the child’s best interest to be allowed to move with the custodial parent. Exceptions to this is when a child is in high school and can graduate with his/her class. I believe a parent still needs a lawyer to protect their rights and to attempt to keep jurisdiction in the home court and to set up a visitation schedule for holidays and vacations and a telephone and/or skype schedule so the child(ren) still keeps his/her connection to the non-custodial parent.