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How North Carolina’s Child Custody Laws Affect Relocation

How North Carolina’s Child Custody Laws Affect RelocationIt is common for individuals’ lives to change course throughout the years and require them to move to different areas or states. This may happen due to a variety of different reasons, such as a new job opportunity, a new relationship, an elderly parent becoming sick or injured, and more.

Regardless of the reasoning for someone needing to move, this is usually a very tough decision to make, especially if there are children involved. If you share children with an ex-spouse and are contemplating making a move, you should know how North Carolina’s relocation laws can affect your child custody plan.

Is moving away easy when you share children with an ex-spouse?

While you may think that moving away should be easy if you have full custody or even share custody of your children with your ex-spouse, the reality is that this can actually be quite complicated. You most likely have custody orders that are in place, which means that the court expects you to follow them at all times. Failure to do so can land you in contempt.

Whether you have joint or sole physical custody, there may be steps you are legally required to take to relocate. The reason for this is because North Carolina doesn’t actually have any laws specifically governing relocation; relocation is dictated by the terms of the divorce or child custody agreement. If there is no such element in your agreement, then legally, you should be able to move wherever you like. If you’re looking to relocate nearby and it won’t violate your agreement, then again – you should have no problems moving.

However, if your agreement states that your children spend two nights a week plus every other weekend at your co-parent’s house, and you want to move four hours away – well, now things get more difficult.

What steps do I need to take to relocate if I share custody of my children?

If you wish to relocate, there are two things to do:

  • Review your child custody order: The first step is to look back at your child custody order. Will moving affect your ability to follow this order? Will it cause you to violate the order? If so, then it’s onto the next step.
  • Ask your ex-spouse if they will agree to the move: Sometimes, these situations can be resolved by simply asking your ex-spouse if they will agree to the move. You may find out that they understand why you need to move and are willing to commute further to pick up or visit with their children. If your co-parent agrees, you should both sit down with your respective lawyers and create a new custody agreement. This agreement will need to be submitted to the court. As long as the judge feels this new plan is still in the best interests of the child, he or she should sign off on it. If your co-parent does not agree, however, then you still need to go back to court with a request to modify the agreement.

Will a court approve my request for modification so I can relocate?

North Carolina’s courts typically do not grant modifications unless there are new issues affecting the well-being of the children, or a modification would be in the children’s best interests. Therefore, you must be prepared to convince the judge that there are many positive aspects of the move that would benefit the children, such as a better quality of life, better academics, better athletic programs, and more.

You should also be prepared to provide a plan to ensure that your children will still have parenting time with your ex. This could mean agreeing to your child speaking on the phone or via Facetime with the other parent every day. It might also mean agreeing to pay for the increased cost of travel so that your children will have one-on-one time, or agreeing to giving up certain holidays or vacations.

What if there’s no formal custody agreement between me and my co-parent?

If you and your ex don’t have a formal custody agreement, you still need permission to relocate. Under the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, your co-parent can petition the court to have you return your child to North Carolina, provided that North Carolina is your child’s home state. And while it’s not technically illegal or kidnapping to move away with your child, the courts don’t like it when you do so without permission. If your co-parent does submit a formal petition for custody, you could be at a disadvantage.

What if I do not want my children to move?

If you share physical custody and do not want your children to move, you can certainly take this issue to court – but you have a decision to make. Are you going to petition for sole physical custody? Because if you do not want your children to move along with your ex, or if you feel like your children’s best interests are better served by them staying put, then you must be prepared that your home may become their primary residence.

If this is what you want, then you will need to convince the judge that your child’s best interests are better served with you. Some reasons why that may be include:

  1. The children have many friends and family members in their current region.
  2. The children are very involved in school, sports, activities, and programs in their current city.
  3. It will significantly impact your parenting time with your children.
  4. It will be extremely challenging for the children to travel back and forth between their two parents.
  5. The move will create a substantial financial burden in terms of travel costs, childcare, or other associated costs.

Remember: a judge cannot force your ex not to move, but can deny approval for a relocation plan or deny a petition to modify an agreement. So there is a real possibility that your co-parent may move anyway. You must decide whether you are ready, willing, and able to become the primary residential parent. If you cannot take on that responsibility for some reason, such as health concerns or your work schedule, then it really is in your children’s best interests to work something out with your ex.

If you have any custody issues, the Charlotte family law attorneys at Epperson Law Group are ready and available to legally assist you. We have decades of experience helping parents with relocation issues. . We know and understand how difficult and complicated these issues can be. To get legal advice about your unique situation, please call our office or complete our contact form to schedule a meeting with one of our lawyers in Charlotte, Boone, Weddington, or Concord today. We will evaluate the facts and circumstances of your case, inform you of the laws that you must follow, and help you decide whether a move is possible.