Relocating for a new job can be the best thing that ever happened. If you and your former spouse have a carefully negotiated custody agreement, it can also be the worst. What can you do when you must choose between the job of your dreams and the income that will give your child the life they should have and the court order that says your spouse gets every other week and alternate weekends?
Substantial Change in Circumstances
To modify a custody or visitation order in North Carolina, you need to show that you have experienced a “substantial change in circumstances” that warrants a modification. Sometimes moving is not such a change. If your new job is only a three-hour drive away, and you are moving for convenience, then the court might not make any changes. But if the new job is in Alaska, then a change in the commute to get your kids to and from your ex might be a problem.
If you and your former spouse are still on good terms, the best thing to do is discuss the matter with them first. Remember that the court is going to rule in the best interest of the child if the two of you cannot agree, so you and your former spouse should have an idea of the result you want before you go in.
Some of your discussions may depend upon who is the custodial parent. If you are that parent, and your child wishes to stay in school with their friends in North Carolina, the custody order may need to be rewritten. If you are the non-custodial parent, you will need to work out how the child will be sent to Alaska for summer vacations. All these things are better discussed between you and your ex before you put your case before a judge.
When It’s Time for Court
If you have agreed on the basic arrangements, or if you know you will not be able to agree, you should call your attorney. Your attorneys can negotiate these details if you and your ex-spouse are not able to work it out and then put it into a request to send to the judge. This is called a “Request for Modification.”
Some things to consider in your request are what jurisdiction will enforce the order once you are out of state and how changes can be made in the future.
- Original jurisdiction. This is a lawyer’s way of saying the court that handled the divorce retains the right to make any changes in the order and to enforce support payments. There are ways to share or transfer jurisdiction, but they must be written into the modification.
- Distance of relocation. Long-distance divorce is hard on everyone. Any new custody arrangement must include provisions for the children to contact both parents via Skype or other communications applications frequently in addition to, not in place of, in-person visits.
- Support payments. Because the original court retains jurisdiction, enforcement can become cumbersome or impossible if the non-custodial parent stops payment. Again, enforcement alternatives must be written into the modification agreement if the move puts one party in another jurisdiction.
If you are the non-custodial parent, you have the right to object to the custodial parent moving out of state and taking the children. To prevent the move, you and your attorney would need to show that the negative effects of moving away from you would outweigh any benefits the child would obtain by staying with the custodial parent during the move.
If you believe the child would be in imminent danger because of such a move or that the custodial parent would fail to obey court orders if away from the primary court’s jurisdiction, you would have grounds for objection. Inconvenience for the non-custodial parent is not sufficient grounds for an objection.
Give the Court Good Reasons
No matter what agreement you need to modify, you must present the court with sufficient evidence to support your case. It is not enough to barge into court and demand that you be allowed to move to Alaska right away. The court must be shown that the move is in the best interest of your child and that the change in visitation will not harm their relationship with the other parent.
We Can Help. Contact Us
If you must move for a new job and have a custody agreement that needs to be changed, contact the Raleigh divorce attorneys of Marshall & Taylor PLLC. We can help you arrange the details with your former spouse and the court and create a modified agreement that protects your rights and maintains your relationship with your child. Call us at (919) 833-1040 as soon as possible.