If you have plans to move out of state with a minor child, you need to understand the legal implications of doing so, especially if there is a custody order in place regarding the child.
Child Custody During Separation and Divorce
If you have a minor child with a parent who lives in another state, it is important to understand how the Uniform Child Custody and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) could affect your child custody case. The UCCJEA is important for determining where you should file a divorce or custody case.
Determining a Child's Home State
For purposes of jurisdiction, or where a court has authority to decide a case, a court will consider where a child resides and where both parents reside. In a child custody case, under the UCCJEA, a child's home state is where a minor child has resided for six months or longer or where the child has significant connections.
If a child has not resided recently in any state for at least six months, a court may consider other factors, such as the following:
- Where each parent resides
- Where the child attends school or receives medical care
- Where important witnesses who could testify about relevant evidence in the case are located
- Whether or not there is a need for a court to exercise temporary emergency jurisdiction
Moving During a Divorce
If you have been served with divorce paperwork, do not move a minor child out of the state without first consulting an attorney. Many courts issue orders regarding moving while a divorce or custody case is pending. You should understand whether or not this applies in your case.
Violating a previous court order is taken very seriously by courts. It is important to understand where you are in the divorce process, state laws that apply to moving with minor children, and how moving could affect your chances of being awarded custody, especially if you are not the primary caregiver of your child. If you live far away from the child's other parent, joint custody will be impractical.
Consulting an attorney may help you avoid penalties from the court that you could face if you moved without seeking advice or petitioning a court for permission to move, especially if any temporary orders regarding custody or visitation were entered previously.
If you need to move out of state for practical reasons, a court will consider how the move could affect the best interests of a child. Important factors include the following:
- Whether the move could improve the quality of life for a child, such as if there are better schools for the child and job opportunities for a parent in the new location
- How the move will affect a child's relationship with other family members
- The reasons for the relocation
- The reasons that a parent who wants to contest relocation is against the move
- The likelihood that parents will be able to follow a realistic visitation schedule after a parent has moved
If you have already moved because you needed to do so, such as to escape an abusive relationship, don't panic. Speak with an attorney about how this could affect your custody case and which state is the proper place to file a divorce if you have not yet filed a complaint for divorce.
Custody Settlement Agreements
If parents live in different states, parents should consider how this will affect visitation with the minor child. Many parents decide to extend visitation during summer and holidays to allow a non-custodial parent more visitation time.
Important considerations when creating a parenting plan with a parent who lives in another state include the following:
- A child's school and recreational activity schedules
- Each parent's work schedule
- Availability of daycare or relatives to watch the child while a parent is at work
- Travel considerations such as who will pay for the costs of transporting a child for visitation
- Abatement of child support when a child is visiting a non-custodial parent for an extended period
- Visitation by phone or video chatting when children are with the other parent
Enforcing a child custody and visitation agreement can present practical difficulties when parents live in different states. Before you move, you should consider how the move will affect your relationship with your children and whether or not the other parent will work with you regarding visitation.
Custody Proceedings After Moving Out of State
Moving to another state after an order regarding custody and support has been entered could affect your rights, especially if you were ordered to share custody with your former partner or spouse.
If you have moved out of the state after a decree regarding child support and custody has been entered, the state where the original order was entered will retain jurisdiction to decide all matters regarding enforcement of the previous order.
If a parent or guardian moves to a new state with a minor child, the new state may become a child's home state for jurisdiction purposes. You may be able to register a judgment from another state if you have moved with your minor child and need to enforce a court's previous orders.
Out-of-State Spousal Support Orders
Spousal support orders differ from child support orders because they are not controlled by the UCCJEA. If you were ordered to pay spousal support and your spouse has moved, your obligation to pay spousal support will still continue.
A court may modify a spousal support order if there has been a significant change in circumstances. If you are the spouse ordered to pay spousal support, you may petition the court to terminate your obligation if your spouse moves to get remarried or if you become permanently disabled.
Moving to a new state is unlikely to impact a prior order unless the move also significantly changes your income. The court that entered the prior order regarding spousal support will still have jurisdiction to modify or enforce it.
Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney in North Carolina
Do you have a question about an out-of-state child custody, divorce or spousal support issue in North Carolina, contact the experienced attorneys at Caulder and Valentine Law Firm, PLLC by filling out our online form or call (704) 470-2440.