As many as 25% of custodial parents move away from their communities within two years after getting a divorce, according to parenting experts. As long as both parents agree, relocating to start a new life isn’t usually a problem.  But a modification of any custodial order may still be required.

When a child custody order exists, a court must approve the request for the minor child to move to a new state, or another North Carolina region if it would alter the court ordered custodial arrangement, even if the other parent is on board.

Changing the terms of custody

If the noncustodial parent agrees, you need to have a new order entered (possibly by consent without a court appearance) , so the custody agreement reflects those changes. As long as the move is in the child’s best interests, the judge will typically approve the request.

However, if the other parent opposes the move or disagrees about visitation, a court hearing will likely need to be scheduled. Note that court proceedings could be delayed due to a backlogged court calendar caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

What to expect at a hearing

As stated above, the court generally rules based on the child’s best interests, so expect the judge to ask pointed questions over:

  • Has there been a substantial change effecting the welfare of the minor child which warrants a modification of the existing custody order
  • The reasons for the move
  • How the change will impact your child’s life
  • Whether a realistic visitation schedule is possible
  • Your intent to fully comply with the revised custody and visitation order
  • The other parent’s objections and arguments against the move

In addition, the judge will likely want to know how you plan to handle birthdays, holidays and other important occasions as well as how your child will maintain consistent contact with the other parent.

Be sure it’s the right move

Many divorced parents move for new economic opportunities or to be closer to family for additional financial and emotional support. Even if the other parent agrees, challenges may exist for convincing your child to move away from the other parent as well as their friends and activities.

Younger kids may be more resilient to change than teenagers, but keeping them in the loop, informing them of your reasons for moving and listening to their concerns can help them deal with another significant change in their life.