Today we are living in an increasingly mobile society. It is becoming more and more common for families to relocate while their children are still school-aged. Such relocations are often the result of job changes for one or both parents, and may be viewed by one or both parents as necessary to continue to ensure the family’s financial stability.
Moving a family with children is never easy, but relocating with children after a divorce is even more complicated. It’s important to know and understand what processes and procedures you must take within the court system prior to your relocation to ensure that you don’t run afoul of Ohio law or your custody order.
Under Ohio Revised Code 3109.051(G), every residential parent of children subject to a court custody order who is planning to move must first file a Notice of Intent to Relocate in the court from which the custody order was made. The timing of filing this Notice will either be dictated by the terms of your shared parenting plan, or by local rule. For example, in Warren County, Ohio, local rule requires parents to file their notice of intent to relocate 60 days prior to the intended move date.
If you and the other parent have shared parenting, there may be restrictions on your ability to relocate drafted into your shared parenting plan, such as a restriction that neither parent may relocate outside your current county or other specifically defined counties without the express written permission of the other parent or a court order. If your shared parenting plan includes such a provision, and the other parent does not agree to allow you to relocate with the children outside of the area defined in your shared parenting plan, then instead of simply filing a Notice of Intent to Relocate, you must file a motion to permit relocation. While the court cannot prohibit you from moving, it may be able to prohibit you from moving with the children and may order changes to your parenting time schedule.
If you do not have shared parenting and are the sole residential parent of the children, Ohio courts cannot prohibit you from moving with the children as they could with shared parenting; however, you do still have to file a Notice of Intent to Relocate, and the other parent could file a motion to modify the parenting time schedule, or even a motion for change of custody, based on your relocation. Even without the other parent filing a motion, the court could, on its own, set a hearing to determine if a change in the parenting time schedule is in the children’s best interests due to the relocation.
It is important to be aware that even if you move out of state, if the other parent continues to reside in Ohio, the Ohio court will continue to have exclusive jurisdiction over the enforcement and modification of your parenting orders unless and until your new state accepts jurisdiction over your case, and Ohio simultaneously relinquishes jurisdiction.
If you find yourself facing a hearing to determine whether you will be permitted to relocate with your children, the court will be making an order based on what it determines to be in the best interests of the children. Before you decide to attempt relocating with the children, make sure you consider the following:
· Why am I moving? Uprooting the children from a place they’ve known is a major change and can cause significant stress for a child. It may also mean that the other parent won’t be able to be as involved as they were before your move. The court will want to see that there is a good reason for the relocation.
· How can I ensure the child still has meaningful access to the other parent? If you are moving a great distance, you will need to at least have some ideas about how the other parent can continue to have meaningful involvement in the child’s life. This may mean setting up routine Facetime sessions, and giving up significant portions of parenting time during your child’s school breaks if your child is no longer able to spend regular weekly time with the other parent due to the distance.
· How does our new neighborhood compare to our current neighborhood? When determining whether a relocation is in a child’s best interest, the court will want to hear about the child’s new school, new neighborhood, and extracurricular activities available in the new location, and hear how they compare to the child’s current home.
· Can I afford the travel that will be required to accommodate the other parent’s parenting time? If you are the parent requesting relocation, even if it wasn’t necessarily “voluntary,” such as in the instance of a job transfer, you will most likely be responsible for footing at least part of the cost of the travel that will be required for the other parent to have parenting time. That may also mean contributing to the travel expenses of the other parent if they are doing the traveling, rather than your child. You should consider this additional expense when budgeting your move.
If you are contemplating a relocation with your children after a divorce, dissolution, or custody order, we highly recommend consulting with an attorney to ensure that you take all the necessary steps prior to relocating, and to assist you should any barriers to the relocation arise.
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