Child Custody Across State Lines: What You Should Know

Whether you've had a custody order in place for a while or you are just trying to negotiate one with your former spouse, it's important that you understand how location can affect that order. While an ideal situation would allow for both parents to stay within close proximity to the children at all times, when one parent has to move out of the area or out of state, that can be challenging. Here's a look at what you should know if your former spouse is moving, or has moved, your children out of state.

Visitation Is A Big-Picture Consideration

Especially when a separation is an emotional one, many custodial parents see visitation as a means to punish the other parent. Withholding visitation to the children, or fighting to prevent court-ordered visitation altogether, is often used as a punitive tool or as a way to lash out when the custodial parent is hurt or upset. The truth is that visitation is a crucial part of a custody settlement.

Court-ordered visitation isn't considered a luxury. And it's not something that the courts take lightly. When two parents decide to separate, visitation is ordered to ensure that the children are able to maintain a strong, close relationship with both parents. The goal is to ensure that the children have sufficient time with the non-custodial parent to preserve that bond and that relationship.

Visitation Is Harder At A Distance

If you are the non-custodial parent and your former spouse is preparing to move out of state or already has moved out of state, it can make your visitation much more difficult. Especially if you've been ordered visitation for every other weekend or something similar, it can be harder at a distance.

In fact, that's why many custody orders include a restriction from the courts prohibiting either parent from relocating beyond a certain distance without the court's approval. The court will evaluate the situation and determine if the relocation is in the best interest of the children before allowing it to proceed.

Visitation Orders Can Be Modified

When you are facing, or currently have, children living out of state, it's important to be proactive about protecting your visitation rights. If the distance is too far for your typical weekend visitation, you should work with a custody attorney to have your visitation order modified.

The first thing to consider is asking for visitation with the children during all school vacations and for half of the summer. That way, the kids aren't traveling back and forth frequently, but you still get plenty of time to spend with them.

In the meantime, you can also ask for court-ordered electronic communication. These orders stipulate that you can maintain communication with your children via text, video calls, and other electronic communication means when they aren't in your custody. It's not a replacement for that in-person time, but it will help to preserve that relationship between visits.

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