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Typically, at the time of the divorce, both parents are living in the same town. But it happens sometimes that at some point after the divorce, one parent wants to move away. Often this is because of a job offer. Other times, the party simply wants to return to his or her family. The issue then becomes: can the parent who is staying behind prevent the other party from moving?
If it is the parent who does not have physical custody, there is no issue. That parent may move. Often, visiting arrangements have to be changed, to allow for fewer, but longer, blocks of time. Typically, children visit spouses in other states during winter break and for part of the summer.
However, if the parent who has physical custody wants to move, and the other parent protests, the courts in most states have the authority to decide, on behalf of the children, whether the custodial parent may move.
The courts typically consider the following factors:
Whether the move will improve the child's school or community.
Whether the parent's motive was to harm the non-custodial parent.
Whether the non-custodial parent's motive in resisting the move is to harm the custodial parent.
Whether the non-custodial parent will still be able to have ongoing and significant contact with the child.
The nature of the non-custodial parent's contact with the child so far. In cases that denied the move, a consistent theme is that the other parent has spent many hours each week with the child, consistently showed up for all his or her visitations, and established a close, supportive, and loving relationship with the child.
The effect, either way, on the child's contact with grandparents and other people who are important influences in his or her life, as well as contact with the child's native culture.