Relocating With Children After a Louisiana Divorce: What You Need to Know
After a divorce, life can take you and your former spouse in dramatically different directions. You may find yourself needing to relocate: moving closer to family in order to have support to help care for children, seeking a new job, or simply getting out of a place that holds bad memories.
If you have children, however, that move may prove more complicated than you initially thought. Louisiana has several clear laws about how far you can move with your children following a divorce and what steps you must take if you plan to move outside that range.
Determining the Child’s Principal Residence
Generally, determining how far you can move with a child following divorce starts with establishing the child’s principal residence. The child’s principal residence usually means either:
1) The place designated as the child’s residence during the divorce decree. This could include the address of the parent with primary custody, for example.
2) The location where both parents, either in writing or verbally, have previously agreed that the child will live. For example, you might have decided together that you intended to keep the child in a specific residence in order to keep him/her in the school attended prior to the divorce.
3) If no principal residence was designated in the divorce decree and there is not an agreement between the parents, the place where the child has spent the majority of the last six months.
“Relocation” occurs when you plan to change the child’s residence for sixty days or more. A full move counts as a relocation. So does going to visit family with a plan to stay for several months. If you plan to relocate even temporarily, you must follow Louisiana laws designating how and when you can move your child.
How Far Can You Move?
Following a divorce, both parents should have reasonable access to and time with the child, under Louisiana law. While the divorce decree may designate a primary residence or primary custodial parent, both parents should have adequate time with their child even after a divorce.
In order to facilitate as much time as possible with both parents, Louisiana parents with custody of their children cannot move more than 75 miles away from the other parent following a divorce without a court order. This includes moving out of state as well as moving within Louisiana.
When Can You Move?
During divorce proceedings, many people find themselves in a position where they need to move quickly. You may, for example, need to change your primary residence in order to afford housing, or you might need to quickly make a move to pursue a new job.
You do not have to have permission from the courts or from the other parent to:
Move less than 75 miles from the other parent or from the child’s primary residence, as listed in court documents. You do not have to have permission, for example, to move across town, or to choose a new residence for yourself.
Take a quick vacation. Unless your child custody agreement prevents you from taking your child across state lines without permission from the other parent, you can take a vacation with your child without needing permission from the other parent or from the courts. This trip should last for less than 60 days. If you plan to be gone more than 60 days, or you have extenuating circumstances that cause you to need to extend your visit longer than anticipated, you should consult an attorney to learn what steps you need to take.
You are not taking the child with you. If you do not have primary custody of your child, you can choose to relocate more than 75 miles away from the child’s primary residence. However, this can limit child visitation. The courts often decree that if a parent deliberately moves a long distance away from the child’s primary residence, that parent will bear responsibility for any travel costs, including traveling to the child or ensuring that the child travels safely to them. You may also have changed custody arrangements: it can prove relatively convenient to transport a child across town for weekend visitation, but can prove much more difficult if you need to move the child across several parishes or out of the state.
You have sole custody of the child. If the other parent has no custody rights, you can move as you see fit.
What If You Need to Move More Than 75 Miles?
You have primary custody of your child and need to move more than 75 miles. What comes next?
Consult with your child’s other parent. Discuss your needs and plans. If you have permission from the child’s other parent, it can make the move easier. You will need to provide the other parent with written notice of your intent to move, including sending it through registered and certified mail or through a registered courier. Notice must be provided 60 days prior to the move or, if circumstances cause the need for an unexpected move, within 10 days of the moving parent receiving all necessary information. This notice must also include a revised custody plan and information about visitation, if relevant. The non-moving parent has 30 days after receiving notice to object to the move.
Contact a family law attorney. An attorney can ensure that you meet your obligations under Louisiana law when planning to relocate with your children, including issuing appropriate notice that contains all the necessary information.
Prepare for the possibility of a hearing. If your former spouse objects to you relocating with your child or children, you may need to go to a court hearing. The hearing will consider the reasons for the move, the financial status of both parents, and the child’s desires, as well as the feasibility of maintaining the parent/child relationship with the non-moving parent following the relocation.
If the other parent does not object or does not submit that objection in writing within 30 days of receiving notice, you can move with your children without a court hearing.
Are you struggling with child custody after a Louisiana divorce? Do you plan to move with your children, but need advice about how to proceed? Contact Betsy A. Fischer, LLC today at 504-780-8232.