Relocating with kids: How to get court approval and make the move easier

Find out what’s involved in modifying a custody order so you can relocate with your children.

In today's mobile world, it's not uncommon for parents to move across the state or even out of the country. Maybe a job change presented an opportunity you couldn't turn down. Or perhaps a remarriage or other changes in your family circumstances made it necessary to relocate.

When you have a child custody order in place, however, moving isn't as simple as packing up and leaving. Relocation requests often give rise to hotly debated disputes. To get court approval of a custody modification in Connecticut, you must prepare beforehand, gathering strong evidence and arguments in support of your position.

The first step: Proving your position in court

If you want to relocate with your children - and the move would affect your existing custody arrangement - you will have the burden of proving your case to the court. Specifically, you must show that:

  1. You have a legitimate reason for the move (for example, due to a career change, remarriage or medical issue).
  2. The move is reasonable in light of its purpose.
  3. The move is in your children's best interests.

Meeting this burden typically requires presenting extensive evidence at a hearing, much the same as an initial custody determination. In deciding whether to approve the relocation, the court will essentially weigh the children's interest in stability against the benefits of a new environment that would potentially better meet their needs. This analysis involves considering numerous factors, including:

  • The children's relationships with both parents
  • The impact of the move on the children's ability to spend meaningful time with both parents
  • The feasibility of making alternative parenting time arrangements to accommodate the move
  • Any economic, emotional and educational benefits resulting from the move
  • The children's preferences, if they are old enough

The court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the children's interests and make recommendations on the proposed move.

The second step: Preparing your children for the move

Even once you receive court approval to relocate with your children, the challenges don't stop there. Moving often involves multiple emotional and psychological hurdles in addition to the legal obstacles. Because it brings about so many changes in your children's day-to-day lives, moving can lead to stress and acting out, particularly among younger children.

Fortunately, there are ways to make the transition smoother for your children. For example, you can:

  • Discuss the move with them well in advance and walk them through what to expect, clearing away the confusion and uncertainty that can make the process so difficult.
  • Acknowledge the fears, worries and sadness that often go along with a move, particularly when it involves leaving behind old friends and familiar surroundings.
  • If possible, time the move to avoid stressful periods such as holidays, the middle of the school year or other busy times.
  • Involve your children in the moving process so they can participate in establishing a new home.
  • Find ways for your children to become involved in their new community through extracurricular activities, neighborhood clubs or other means of making new friends.

The importance of legal help

Relocating involves many challenges, but it's not impossible, especially when you have professional legal guidance. Attorney James Cuddy in Shelton, Connecticut, assists families with the many legal considerations involved in modifying child custody orders, including relocation requests.