When a couple with children divorce, they usually create two separate households, hopefully close enough to one another that the children will be able to move easily in between the households for visitation, holidays and vacations. However, one parent may need to relocate to an area that would require the children to be transported via a bus, train or even plane ride for visitation with the relocated parent. This can make co-parenting quite challenging, as one parent often ends bearing the brunt of the day-to-day responsibility and care for the child.
If your or your spouse wants to relocate, Maryland law requires that they give the other parent and the court 90 days’ notice of your intention to move, unless your Parenting Plan or Judgment of Divorce provides otherwise. If the parties cannot agree upon a modified visitation schedule amongst themselves to accommodate the parent’s relocation, then the parties can seek the assistance of the court. The court will then consider if the move is in the best interest of the child and will inquire of the relocating parent’s reasoning for relocating. If the move is because the parent has found employment that pays better than their current position, they are moving to a safer neighborhood, one with better schools, or an area closer to the parent’s family, then these circumstances might stand to benefit the child and the court might look more favorably on them. The court cannot keep a parent from moving out of the area regardless of their reasons for doing so; however, they can modify the custody/visitation arrangement so that it will be in the best interest of the child. So, if a parent wants to move across the country just to be closer to their new love interest, the court may not prohibit them from moving, but it may give the other parent primary residential custody of the child if it does not consider the move to be in the best interest of the child.
The challenges of parenting at a distance
Whether a parent moves away from the child, or the child moves away with the other parent, a long-distance parenting relationship can be challenging for both parents and the minor child. You may have to deal with the child feeling abandoned if it is the parent who has moved away, or the child may experience home-sickness and express the desire to move back home with the other parent. It will take a team effort on the part of both parents to help the child adjust to the new arrangement.
- Consistent communication between the parent and child is vital to keep each other informed about what is going on in the child’s life and in the parent’s life. Consider using email and text messaging when the child is older and even video chatting so that you can see each other’s faces. Keep bed times and the child’s household rules in mind when it comes to phone calls.
- Remain in close communication with your co-parent and make sure that the child is adjusting well.
- Make the most of the time you do spend together with your child. Encourage them and do everything you can to remain a part of their daily routine.
Parental relocation issues can be quite complicated because they sometimes involve forcing a parent to choose between being able to be close to their child and accepting an advantageous employment opportunity that is miles away. An experienced Annapolis family law attorney at Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC can help you create a parenting plan agreement with your spouse that allows for creative visitation arrangements that accommodate the best interest of the child and his or her relationship with both parents. If you or your spouse is considering a move, please contact us to learn more about how your custody and visitation schedules may be affected.