Negotiating child custody arrangements can be one of the most challenging aspects of a divorce proceeding, especially as emotions tend to run high. Most judges will seek to grant some type of shared legal and physical custody. It is now widely recognized that an arrangement that allows the child to spend quality time with each parent promotes secure attachments and encourages the development of the child’s self-esteem. In most cases, if the parents live within a short distance of one another, joint physical custody will be relatively easy to maintain. However, what happens when one parent plans on relocating to a distant location, or even to another state? Let’s take a look at how the court views child relocation matters and what you can expect from the process.
Understanding Child Relocation Laws in Ohio
Like most states, Ohio has laws in place that prevent a parent from moving a child to a different county or state without the court’s formal approval. The court actually takes these issues very seriously—if a parent relocates the child without obtaining permission, this is a punishable offense that could lead to steep fines or even jail time. Additionally, the judge may decide to award full custody to the other parent, causing you to forfeit your custodial rights. In order to avoid these severe consequences, it’s essential that the parent who is intending to relocate go through the proper channels to obtain formal approval. The parent will need to appear in court to request the judge’s permission to bring the child to another state.
The Approval Process
In every state, judges strive to prioritize the best interests of the child in any child custody matter. In child relocation cases, the judge will consider several factors to determine whether the potential benefits to the child are greater than the downsides. For instance, the court will look at whether this move provides increased income for the custodial parent, or whether the new destination will be closer to grandparents or other extended family members. Or, perhaps this move will offer the child more varied educational opportunities. Additionally, the judge recognizes that, should the custodial parent relocate the child to another state, the noncustodial parent will experience a significant reduction in face-to-face quality time with the child. Whatever the specifics of the situation may be, the court will strive to find a fair outcome that best supports the interests of the child.
Negotiating With Your Ex-Spouse
If you and your ex are on the same page about the out-of-state move, then you can both sign a stipulation and consent agreement, which you can then submit to the court. The judge will examine it and decide whether this move is in the child’s best interests—if so, the judge will approve it and the document will become an official court order. In instances where you and your ex are in disagreement about the relocation, you can work with a mediator to reach an agreement. Or, if you simply cannot find a resolution through negotiation, the parent who intends to relocate the child must petition the court to make a formal relocation request. No matter which route you take, it’s highly advisable to work with a knowledgeable child custody attorney who can help you present your concerns and achieve an equitable outcome.