Some of the most contentious cases that family law courts handle are cases in which a custodial parent wants to move away with his or her children to another part of the state, to another state, or even out of the country. The proposed destination could put 100 miles, or 1,000 miles, between you and your children.
The motives behind a move can vary. A parent may desire to move in order to pursue a new job opportunity or a new relationship, or simply to return to his or her home city, state, or country. In other cases, though, a custodial parent may wish to use geography as a way to keep the other parent out of their children’s lives.
The possibility of having your children move hundreds or thousands of miles away from you is a very serious topic, and it could result in a bitter dispute if not handled wisely. Whatever her motives, if the mother of your children wants to move them away from you, don’t worry; you have rights.
Child Relocation in Arkansas
Can a custodial parent move out of state with the children? It depends. In Arkansas, so-called “move-away cases” are determined based on a number of factors, including whether there is already a custody agreement in place, and whether that custody agreement grants primary custody to one parent or joint custody to both of you. Also, as in all areas of family law, what is in the best interest of the child will play a significant role in deciding your case.
Case law has established certain precedent for move-away cases in Arkansas. That means that it is not possible to know with certainty beforehand how your case will be decided, but you and your lawyer can look at how courts have ruled in similar cases in the past to get a good idea of what factors will be considered.
If the mother of your children is the primary custodial parent, it is less likely that she will be required to justify her decision to move away. You will need to argue that a material change of circumstances has occurred that requires re-examining the initial custody agreement and possibly granting custody to you. If, however, you and the child’s mother have joint custody, it is more likely that the custody arrangement will need to be reconsidered in light of the mother’s intended move. In either case, you should consult with an experienced child custody lawyer to discuss your unique situation.
What will the court consider when deciding if my children can move away?
Move-away cases are emotionally taxing for everyone, and the court will consider all of the relevant factors in your case. In the best-case scenario, if you and your children’s mother agree on how the move should be handled, you can present that information to the court in the event that changes have to be made to the custody agreement.
If you do not agree and the child’s mother is the primary custodial parent, you will need to make an argument that a material change in circumstances has occurred and that the move will cause harm to your children. If you have joint custody, you have need to make a case for why the children’s best interest would be served by them remaining with you. Depending on your particular circumstance, any of the following factors might be considered:
- The children’s existing relationship with you and their mother. How frequently do each of you see/have contact with the children? What bond do you have with the children?
- The mother’s motivation for wanting to move away. Is there evidence that the mother of your children is leaving primarily to keep the children away from you?
- The location of the move. Is the move to a location so far away that it will prevent you from seeing your children on a regular basis? Is the move to a location that is potentially dangerous? Will the move cause significant cultural changes for your children, such as might occur if a different language is spoken in the new location?
- The wishes of your children. Assuming that they are sufficiently mature to make such a decision, what would your children prefer and why?
- The children’s existing community connections and needs, including health and educational needs. Do any of your children need something–including stability–that can only be provided by staying with you or moving with their mother?
The factors that the court will use to determine whether to make changes to your custody agreement in light of a move are complicated. There is also a lot at stake. It is therefore extremely important that you have a competent and qualified child custody lawyer to assist you.
Contact Mann & Kemp: Central Arkansas Family Law Attorneys
If your children’s mother wants to move away with your children–or if you want to move your children away from their mother–give us a call and one of our experienced family law attorneys will assist you.
We are here to assist with all of your family law needs. If you have any other family law questions, such as how you can get joint custody as a father, or what happens with visitation when a noncustodial parent moves out of state, call Mann & Kemp at (501) 222-4730, or contact us here to schedule a consultation.