Can Child Custody Be Altered When A Parent Moves Away?

When a family goes through a divorce, they’re concerned about a lot of things. Not too far from the top of this list is who will get custody of the child or children.

When a child lives with one parent more than 50% of the time, that parent has primary custody. If both parents agree to be equally involved in the raising of the child, they can split custody 50/50. This is also known as joint custody.

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What happens when the court has given sole custody of the child or children to a parent, but then that parent moves away? How does it affect their custody?

A parent moving from one state to another is the number one reason for custody modifications. The geological location of the parents will have a major impact on the child, as the parent with custody cannot just pick up and leave. They must serve notice to the noncustodial parent, who can then go back to court with a child custody attorney to stop them.

The court will have to determine what is in the best interest of the child. They do this by examining several factors. If the court believes that the custodial parent is only moving to interfere with the other parent’s relationship with the child, the move can be denied. While our courts cannot dictate where an adult in the United States lives, they can place a restriction on the child so that he or she cannot live away from the state.


Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. The court will examine the entire family dynamic before a divorce is granted. This may include:

  1. Does one parent have a violent or illegal past that could affect the safety of the child?
  2. Does one parent have a readily available support system in another area that is better for the child?
  3. Can the custodial parent secure a great job with financial stability in another area that they cannot get in the state in which they live?
  4. What kind of relationship does the child have with the noncustodial parent?
    • Do they attend school functions?
    • Do they keep up with visitations?
    • Are they involved in the child’s social life?
    • If the child is over 12, where does he or she want to live?
  5. Is the parent or the child going through a major health issue that requires the support of family and/or access to better medical facilities?
  6. Is there more opportunity for education and career in the new location?

These factors may sway the judge to allow the custodial parent to move and adjust the visitation of the noncustodial parent. If the judge does not believe the reasons provide merit moving a child away from their parent, the judge may restrict where the child can live.

If the custodial parent disobeys the court order and takes the child or children without permission to another state, the court could award custody of the child or children to their noncustodial parent. For more information, contact a child custody attorney today.