While divorce cases may formally end following a judge’s final decree, the court orders put in place as a part of that decree have a long lasting impact on the lives of both parties and others involved in the case, especially for children of divorce. The impact can be financial, emotional, or (in the case of a parental relocation), practical.
“Parental relocation” is the more formal term for when a divorced parent seeks permission to relocate with their children, usually to another state from where their divorce took place. It’s an important decision, as it uproots the daily lives and routines of the children involved and creates physical space between the children and the nonrelocating parent.
As such, judges carefully evaluate various factors to determine the best interests of the child before passing a judgement on a parental relocation request, and their decision can have far-reaching implications on the custody of the children in question.
Here are four of the biggest factors a judge may take into the account when considering a parental relocation:
1. The child’s best interests
We’ll start off with what may be an obvious one, as the main consideration for any judge when dealing with a parental relocation is the welfare and best interests of the child or children. Judges assess how the proposed relocation might affect the child’s overall well-being, including their emotional, educational and social needs. The primary focus is on ensuring that the child’s life remains stable and whether the move would detrimentally impact their development.
This overarching focus on the best interests of the child drive the decisions that the judge may make on more specific factors, as we’ll cover below.
2. Relationship with the nonrelocating parent
About 21.8% of Maryland’s population is younger than 18 years old, and some of these children move out of state at some point. Judges carefully examine the relationship between the child and the nonrelocating parent. Maintaining a strong bond with both parents is generally important for a child’s healthy development. A judge may assess the impact of the relocation on the nonrelocating parent’s ability to maintain regular contact with the child and participate in their upbringing.
While in many cases this factor may negatively impact the chances of a parental relocation being granted, it can sometimes work in the relocating parent’s favor. If the child or children have an especially negative relationship with the other parent, then it can be argued that moving to a new area further away from said parent can positively impact the child’s well being and emotional state.
3. Motivation for relocation
The reasons behind the parent’s desire to relocate play a significant role in the judge’s decision. If a genuine necessity (such as better employment opportunities, improved living conditions, or proximity to familial support) drives the move, a judge may see it more favorably. However, if the motivation appears questionable or lacks a valid basis, it may raise concerns about the parent’s true intentions.
4. Educational opportunities and stability
Judges assess the educational implications of the proposed relocation. This includes evaluating the quality of the new school or educational environment and whether the move would enhance or hinder the child’s educational prospects. Stability in terms of housing, community and school can significantly influence the judge’s decision.
When divorced parents seek to relocate with their children, the court’s primary concern is the child’s best interests. Judges aim to make decisions that prioritize the child’s overall welfare and promote a stable and supportive environment.
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