What Factors Does The Court Consider In Deciding The Relocation Of A Child?
The overall standard for relocation is derived from a case called Tropea v Tropea. This was a case decided over 20 years ago. The overall standard is still the best interest of the child but the case lays out some of the factors that the trial court should take into consideration, while also stating that the trial court should not have a preference one way or the other towards allowing or disfavoring the move. Instead, they should look at the “totality of the circumstances”, specifically considering the reasons for either seeking or opposing the move, the quality of the relationships between the child and the custodial and noncustodial parents, the impact of the move on future contact with the noncustodial parent, the degree the child’s life may be enhanced economically, emotionally, and educationally by the move, and the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the noncustodial parent and the child through suitable visitation arrangements.
Certainly, there are related factors, such as the payment or lack thereof of child support. Involvement with the child will include whether and to what degree the noncustodial parent is involved in every aspect of the child or children’s lives; to what degree they go to school events, extra-curricular events, medical appointments, and dental appointments. The overall focus is on the best interest of the child and the custodial parent should be focusing on presenting a picture to the court of how the move will ultimately benefit the child and will allow the child a better life.
If Relocation Is Approved, How are Transportation Costs Worked Out Amongst Parents?
Transportation agreements are subject to negotiation within the relocation case. Usually, there is some reduction to child support, if the noncustodial parent agrees to the relocation in order to allow the noncustodial parent extra money to be able to travel back and forth. Also, depending on the age of the child and the preferences of the parents, there are programs that many airlines sponsor which allow the child to be accompanied by a steward, so that the parents do not necessarily have to travel with the child.
Sometimes, child support is completely eliminated, depending on the amount of child support and how badly the custodial parent wants to relocate with the child, as well as their finances. It may very well be that the custodial parent is relocating because they’re getting a really great job in the other state and therefore, they won’t need child support. If that’s the case, perhaps an agreement can be made to then free up that money that the noncustodial parent would otherwise pay in child support to be used for airline tickets and travel expenses.
How Is Jurisdiction Defined If The Parents Reside In Separate States?
There are couple of different aspects to jurisdiction in relocation cases. If the jurisdiction has never been decided before, meaning there were no prior custody or visitation decrees, then it is generally governed by what’s called the home state of the child. The home state of the child is defined by statute as where the child has resided at least six months prior to the case being filed. If a prior custody or visitation order has been issued, then the state that issued that prior order generally retains what’s called “continuing & exclusive jurisdiction” for any modifications – which would include relocation applications – so long as one parent and/or the child remains residing in that issuing state.
There are certainly exceptions where the custodial parent and child have already moved and have lived in that other state for a very long time; they could make the application that the issuing state is no longer the proper basis for jurisdiction and is what’s called an “inconvenient forum” for jurisdiction. In a relocation case, jurisdiction is usually not the battle simply because relocation would presume that the parents are already living in the same state and one parent wants to move away to a separate state.
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