Litigating child custody issues such as a relocation is expensive and stressful. A relocation is where one parent seeks to relocate with the children out of the 50 mile radius of where he/she currently resides. So, what happens if your ex-spouse asks you to permit them to relocate with the children or you are served with a Petition for Relocation?
Before you do anything, you should immediately consult with a family law attorney that specializes in relocation litigation. That attorney should be able to guide you on how to respond in accordance with how you wish to proceed.
You should evaluate several factors before objecting or consenting to relocation:
- Can you re-structure your timesharing schedule to see the children in such a way that allows your spouse to relocate but also allows you to maintain a close relationship with your children?
- Are you current in your child support and other financial obligations your ex-spouse?
- Is your ex-spouse seeking to relocate with the children because of a better employment opportunity which will benefit your children?
- Is your ex-spouse seeking to relocate with the children closer to other family members? If so, why?
- Are you and your ex-spouse fighting about children’s issues?
- Did your ex-spouse just re-marry?
- Will the relocation benefit your children in any way?
- Are you capable of caring for your children full time?
- What are your child’s social, emotional, financial, and scholastic needs?
If you decide you need to object to the relocation request, you must do so in writing. If your ex-spouse asked in an email or text message, you must respond and object clearly. If you were served with a Petition for Relocation, you must prepare a formal written objection to be filed with the Court. In preparing and filing the objection, the statute requires that you state in detail your objection and facts supporting your objection including your involvement in the children’s lives. This document must be verified, meaning you are swearing to the truthfulness of the statements made in the document. If you have hired an attorney, your attorney will prepare this for you.
Once the objection has been filed, the intensive fact gathering and discovery process will commence. If your ex-spouse seeks a temporary relocation or seeks to expedite the relocation trial process, you could end up with a relocation trial within 30 days. You will have only that much time to gather your evidence and make your case.
You will need to provide your attorney with as much information as is possible regarding why your children should not be permitted to relocate. Think about how much time your children spend with you and your extended family members, how much time they spend in the community, playing sports or participating in extra-curricular activities, in church, and how they are performing in school. The relocation statute has a specific set of factors that your attorney will give you to guide you in gathering evidence and collecting information.
It is likely that your ex-spouse will want to take your deposition to find out your specific objections and ask you questions. Your attorney should prepare you for this, but giving honest answers is always the best policy. When taking your deposition, your ex-spouse’s attorney will also “size you up” as a witness. Are you easy to frustrate or anger? If so, you need to work on remaining patient and not allowing the attorney to get under your skin.
During relocation litigation, it is difficult not to feel attacked by your ex-spouse. It will be helpful for you to remember that your ex-spouse is not trying to do this to you, but that he or she is seeking to make a better change in his/her life, which could also benefit your children.
If you are okay with your ex-spouse relocating with the children, you can negotiate a relocation parenting plan. You will want to make sure you have enough time with your children to maintain a close relationship. If they are not relocating out of state, consider the cost for traveling to see them and the cost for their travel to see you. Make sure this is something you can afford or that your ex-spouse is going to contribute to. If they are relocating out of state, will you have enough time to travel to see them? Will the new timesharing schedule afford you enough contact with your children? Will your child support obligations increase with the new timesharing schedule? After you have given careful thought to these questions and have reasonable answers, and after discussing everything with your attorney, negotiate your settlement agreement.
If you or your ex-spouse is seeking to relocate with the children and you have questions, you can contact Angela R. Neave, at Fixel Neave, P.A., by calling 954-981-2200.