Is It Possible to Relocate with My Children?

Oct. 13, 2021

More than 350,000 Minnesota children live in a single-parent household, many because their parents divorced or no longer live with one another. Having a relationship with both parents is vital to the well-being of most children, regardless of their parents' relationship with one another. So, what happens when one parent opts for relocation after the divorce?

Minnesota courts use the same guiding rule in all matters related to children: the best interests of the child. Although it may be a difficult adjustment for everyone concerned, relocation at times serves the best interest of the child and the relocating parent. Sometimes, it does not.

The Law Office of Glen A. Norton has helped clients in Minnetonka, Minnesota, Wayzata, Plymouth, Maple Grove, Eden Prairie, and Hennepin County make sense of child custody matters for more than three decades. If you or your child's other parent is considering moving the children, here are some questions you might need answered.

How Does Relocation Affect Custody and Visitation?

The first thing to know is that Minnesota law prohibits a parent from relocating a child if the other parent has been awarded parenting time. A parent can only move with the child if the other parent agrees or by obtaining a court order.

The parent who wants to relocate must send a notice of intent to relocate to the other parent as soon as they know they are moving. The notice should be in writing and include as much specific information as possible, including the new address and school or daycare information.

In most child custody cases, both parents are awarded parenting time. There is a presumption that spending time with both parents is, indeed, in the child's best interest. Both parents are typically granted joint legal custody, which means both make major decisions about such things as the child's education, healthcare and medical treatment, and religion.

Physical custody may be awarded as sole or joint custody. Sole custody does not necessarily mean the child sees only one parent. It means the child spends most of their time with one parent. The other parent is awarded parenting time in a custody agreement, time the child will spend with the non-custodial parent. Neither sole nor joint custody gives one parent the right to relocate the child without the other parent's agreement or an order from the court.

If a parent is allowed to move with the child, the parenting plan will be revised and a new custody order issued that accommodates visitation for the non-relocating parent.

Do Both Parents Have to Agree to Moving the Children?

If both parents agree to the relocation, they can cooperate on revising the existing parenting plan and any other terms of the move, then ask the court for approval. Remember, a child custody agreement is a court order and cannot be replaced without the court's issuance of a new order.

If the non-relocating parent does not agree, the matter will be decided by a judge following an evidentiary hearing. The relocating parent bears the burden of proving that the move is in the child's best interest. If the non-relocating parent fears for the child's health and safety due to a history of domestic violence, the burden is on that parent to prove it.

Moving with the children cannot be used to punish the other parent. Furthermore, a parent who moves without a court order permitting the move will face serious consequences

What Factors Does the Court Consider?

The judge will consider multiple factors in determining what is in the child's best interest, including:

  • How the move will affect the child's relationship with other people, such as grandparents and siblings;
  • The child's age and developmental stage, and the impact the move may have on the child;
  • If the child is mature enough, the wishes of the child;
  • The impact the move will have on the non-relocating parent's ability to maintain a relationship with the child;
  • Whether the relocating parent is moving to punish the other parent, based on any history of failure to uphold the parenting agreement;
  • Whether relocating will improve the child's quality of life and the life of the relocating parent;
  • Any history of domestic violence, substance abuse, and other factors related to the child's health and safety; and,
  • The parent's objections to the relocation.

Working with an Experienced Family Law Attorney

Divorce is difficult enough on children and their relationships with their parents. Moving them raises even greater challenges. Whether you want to relocate or want to oppose it, make sure to reach out to a seasoned family law attorney. The Law Office of Glen A. Norton has provided guidance for parents in and around Minnetonka, Minnesota on both sides of this highly emotional issue. Schedule an initial consultation today.

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