Moving Out of North Carolina: How Does This Affect Child Custody?

Moving to another state is always a major decision, but it can be an especially complicated choice if there are children in the picture. If you have kids, you already know that uprooting a child and throwing them into a new life can be problematic, especially if they have friends and an established school routine in their local neighborhood. On the other hand, your life is important, too. If you have just ended your marriage, you might want to leave the past behind and start again somewhere new.

Unfortunately, having children can complicate plans for relocation, especially if there are strict custody orders in place. Losing your freedom to move away from the Charlotte region can be frustrating, especially if you have just emerged from a stressful divorce. Fortunately, there are plenty of legal options available if you are serious about moving away from Mecklenburg County or the surrounding areas. With the help of a qualified, experienced family law attorney, you can approach this matter with confidence.

Why Relocating is Not That Easy After a Divorce

While having primary custody definitely makes it easier to make important, everyday decisions about your child’s life, there are limits to these freedoms in North Carolina. Judges in the Tar Heel State generally want to ensure that the child has access to both parents as much as possible. Unless your former spouse poses a serious risk to your child’s safety, these judges will legally require you to give your former spouse access to your child on a regular basis.

This means that moving out of the state could raise significant legal issues. Leaving the state may make it infeasible for your former spouse to visit with their child on a regular basis. Even relocating to another part of North Carolina might force your former spouse to drive for several hours just to see their child.

Review Your Custody Order

The first thing you will want to do is review your child custody order or separation agreement. This legal document will likely contain very specific language about geographic restrictions. For some custody orders, primary parents will not be allowed to leave the borders of the state. For others, their agreement might require them to stay within a certain county.

Going Back to Court

Of course, these custody orders can be challenged and modified in court. If you are serious about moving to another state, you generally have two options — you can either get the other parent to agree to the move, or you can go back to court and have a new court order formalized by a judge.

Challenges With the Court Process

While getting your court order formalized by a judge is certainly possible, there are a number of challenges associated with this process. For a judge to approve a move out of state, they need to be convinced that this decision is in the child’s best interests. For example, your child may have the opportunity to participate in greater athletic or academic opportunities in another state. You need to show that these advantages outweigh any potential negative consequences associated with moving away.

If You are Not the Primary Parent

If you are not the primary parent, you have every right to challenge a proposed relocation in court. If you find yourself in this situation, your goal is to show the judge that the proposed relocation is not in the child’s best interests. For example, the move might require the child to say goodbye to several good friends. Perhaps they are heavily involved in local clubs and sporting teams. Severing these ties can be detrimental to a child’s well-being, and starting again in a new school can be challenging.

In some rare cases, a primary parent may lose primary custody after relocating. A judge may decide that the move has clearly been detrimental to the child’s well-being, and they may give the other parent primary custody so that the child can move back home to North Carolina.

Enlist the Help of a Qualified, Experienced Attorney

If you have been searching for a qualified, experienced family law attorney, look no further than Arnold & Smith, PLLC. We have plenty of experience with high conflict divorces, so we understand how contentious these child custody issues can be. Even if you are dealing with a combative and problematic spouse, you have a strong chance of moving away from the Charlotte area to your chosen location. Reach out today, book your consultation, and we can start exploring your legal options together.