Heath-Newton LLP Offers Advice For Moving Children Out of State after a Divorce

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Recently, many families have had to deal with the stresses that a divorce can put on each member. One of the recent trends that Heath-Newton LLP can offer advice on is moving children out of state after an unfortunate divorce.

Picture this: a divorce is final and family members are trying to put their lives back together. Jobs are stable, but the parent has been looking for a better job for months. Then it happens. They find the job of their dreams! Only catch: it’s in Virginia. To take it, they would have to move clear across the country and uproot the kids – parents can’t exactly leave them behind. And if that’s not bad enough, there’s another large (but more familiar) obstacle in the way: the ex. He never seemed to care about the kids before the divorce, but somehow he got joint custody, and now he won’t consent to moving the kids out of state.

Let’s look at things from the other perspective. Say the kids are happy living primarily with mom, and dad is very involved in the kids’ lives. He’s personally coaching little Jessica in tennis and she’s ranked nationally in the under 5 category. Mom doesn't waste a single day post-divorce – she immediately finds a great new boyfriend online. He’s rich. He’s handsome. He’s 6’4”. And he just invited mom and the kids to come live with him on his sprawling 124-acre ranch… In Calgary. Wonderful.

In both of these scenarios, the parties will likely wind up in court on what is cleverly referred to as a “move away case.” This is not going to be an easy case from either party’s perspective. California courts are loath to separate children from their parents, but they do sometimes allow it. So even if one parent has primary custody, the court will want to hear very good reasons before allowing that parent to move the children out of state.

The court’s determination in these cases boils down to an evaluation of the children’s best interests. There are a lot of factors that go into determining best interests, but the courts are generally of the opinion that maintaining frequent and continuous contact with both parents is one of the most important. That makes it very difficult for one parent to move the children out of state after divorce if the other parent objects. That said, it does happen, and the most common scenario for getting approval for a move-away is one in which the non-custodial parent is disengaged or doesn't spend any meaningful time with the children. If the non-custodial parent is a big part of the children’s lives, the battle is going to be a lot longer and a lot tougher.

Courts look at almost every factor in making their decision about moving children out of state after divorce. Here are some examples of facts that are in favor of a move-away:

● Older children;
● Non-custodial spouse has a very limited timeshare, is disengaged, violent, or is a substance abuser;
● Proposed new home has better schools, a lower crime rate, a better support system (including extended family), or similar features that are good for the kids;
● Better employment opportunities for the custodial parent in the proposed new home;
● Children do not have special attachments to their current home (e.g. medical needs that can only be treated effectively there, special hobbies that are only available there, etc.)

Virtually every factor affecting the kids is relevant to the Courts. If they're seeking a move-away, the strategy is to highlight how beneficial the new location will be for the kids in all areas of their lives. It is also critical show the many ways to keep the connection between the non-custodial parent and the children strong. Committing to facilitating calls or Skype video chats, helping the kids spend vacations and other special occasions with the non-custodial parent (including chipping in for airfare), and other strategies for keeping the bond strong, all help tip the scales in favor of approving the move-away.

If contesting a move-away, the approach is to focus on how well adjusted the kids are to their current environment, and how disruptive a move would be. Establish that the relationship with the kids is strong and consistent, and that their new home simply wouldn't be able to approximate the benefits of staying near.

If the thought was that a move was a great way to wipe the slate clean and ignore the ex, the courts don’t get behind that agenda. Move-aways only work if the parents continue to play nice.

These cases follow a fairly common, but a very complex procedural process. When dealing with moving the children out of state after divorce, a parent will want to hire a family attorney experienced with move-away cases. Our office handle’s move-away cases very frequently, and is happy to explain the process. Feel free to give us a call if there are any questions.

About the company:
At Heath-Newton LLP, they specialize as divorce attorneys in family law, asset protection and estate planning services. Based in San Francisco, their boutique firm has earned a reputation for managing their clients’ cases well, reaching successful resolutions — and minimizing costs and disruption to their clients’ lives.

They have handled a long list of family law cases, including a broad range of issues facing new families (such as domestic partnerships, premarital agreements, adoption and more), as well as divorce, asset division, child custody and child and spouse support. They also have extensive experience in estate planning, wills, probate, mediation, living wills and trusts.

Collectively, their attorneys have thousands of hours of experience, allowing them to be both efficient and effective. They are guided by a practical approach that emphasizes avoiding litigation to minimize costs and disruption; however, they can and will be fierce litigators when all other strategies have proven ineffective. For more information visit their website at http://www.heathnewton.com. To discuss a situation with one of their attorneys, please call them at (415) 398-1290.

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Charlotte Jones
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