sad move

Can a Parent Relocate with Their Child Despite a Child Custody Order?

Every parent has the right to relocate, though legal complications may arise if they seek to relocate with their children following divorce. Relocation could result in decreased parenting time for the other parent, for instance, and increased costs of commute. In today’s blog, we will discuss the grounds for relocation and the legal process for obtaining or objecting to relocation.

Requesting Relocation in Oklahoma

Under Oklahoma law, custodial parents (parents the children reside with) have a right to relocate with their minor children, unless the children's welfare is at risk due to such a move. However, while they have a right to petition to relocate, the non-custodial parent also has the right to object to the move.

A custodial parent may relocate with their minor children without court approval if the move is less than 75 miles from the current residence for a period of less than 60 days. If a parent wants to move further or for a longer period of time, they need to send a written notice to the other parent that addresses:

  • the intended new address, including the mailing address;
  • the home telephone number;
  • the date of the intended move;
  • a brief statement of the specific reasons for the relocation;
  • a proposal for a revised schedule of visitation with the child and non-custodial parent; and
  • a warning to the non-custodial parent that they must file an objection to the relocation notice within 30 days, or the court will approve the relocation.

The notice must be sent no later than 60 days before the date of the proposed move. In extenuating circumstances that prove such advanced notice impossible, the custodial parent should send notice as soon as they reasonably can but no less than 10 days after they have determined that a move is necessary. Note that the court may permit the custodial parent to restrict personal information from the notice in the case of domestic violence.

If the notice is accepted by the court and other parent doesn’t file an objection, the petitioning parent can relocate after 30 days without having to go to a relocation hearing. However, if the notice doesn't meet the above requirements, the court may deny the relocation.

The Relocation Hearing

If the non-moving parent objects to the relocation, the parents will proceed to a relocation hearing to determine if the move is in the children's best interests. The court will first examine whether the moving parent has good faith reasons for relocation, such as a promotion, better educational opportunities for the children, and/or moving closer to immediate family. If the court finds that the parent is trying to relocate for bad faith reasons, such as simply to make it more difficult for the non-custodial parent to see the children, the court may deny the relocation.

Note that if the court does believe the parent is requesting a move in good faith, it will be up to the non-custodial parent to prove that the relocation is not in the children's best interests.

In making the final relocation decision, the court may evaluate several factors, including:

  • the nature, quality, extent of involvement, and duration of the children's relationship with both the parents, siblings, and other significant people in the children's life;
  • the age, developmental stage, needs of the children, and the likely impact the relocation will have on their physical, educational, and emotional development;
  • the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the non-moving parent and the children through suitable visitation arrangements (considering logistics and the parents' financial circumstances);
  • the children's preference if of mature and reasonable age;
  • whether there's an established pattern of conduct of the person seeking the relocation, either to promote or hurt the relationship for the children and the non-relocating parent;
  • whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for both the moving parent and the children, including financial or emotional benefits or educational opportunities;
  • each parent's reasons for seeking or opposing the relocation; and
  • any other factor affecting the best interests of the children.

If you are a parent objecting to a proposed relocation, you should use the above factors to prove that it is not in the children’s best interests to move. You will also need to show that the custodial parent is unfit and that there is a risk of real and specific harm to the children while living in the new location.

Relocation cases are complicated, especially as they involve several other concerns as well, such as modification of a standing child custody order. If you seek to relocate more than 75 miles with your children or want to object to the other parent’s proposal for such a relocation, Nichols Dixon PLLC can help. We will help you build a strong case in the relocation hearing and do our best to protect your parent-child relationship.

Schedule an initial consultation to discuss your legal options with our legal team at Nichols Dixon PLLC today.