Custody decisions are not written in stone. As change is the law of life, parents with joint custody rights may be considering relocation for career or personal reasons. Relocation cases typically trigger opposition from parents concerned about visitation and spending time with their child or children. While it may be in the best interest of the child to relocate with the relocating parent, it has to be handled in the right way.
Whether you’re the parent requesting a move or the one opposing it, you deserve to know how New Mexico family law governs the matter. Matteucci Family Law is ready to advocate for you.
How Relocation Will Impact Custody
Relocations can happen for any reason, including a new job, getting married, or a family emergency. But no matter which parent is contemplating a move, it will affect custody.
Custody orders and agreements are made with numerous factors in mind, one of which is the relative locations of the parents. When both parents live near each other and within the same state, custody becomes a matter of deciding on a schedule that fits both of their lives. But when a parent moves, that dynamic changes.
If you are the parent who is relocating, it will be harder to meet your obligations under the custody order. For example, how will you be able to exchange the child at the same time, location, and frequency as before? On the other hand, if you’re the non-moving parent, the decision to relocate could be startling. Will you still be able to see your child as often as before?
Steps To Take Prior To Relocation
The relocating parent usually knows about the move well in advance. Generally, the non-relocating parent will also know about the move long before it happens. For each, timely communication is important. It’s possible that the move won’t affect either parent’s rights or obligations under the existing custody order. As an example, if one parent moves relatively close by, it probably won’t impact that parent’s ability to exchange the child as before. Assuming the move won’t harm the child’s well-being, it is likely acceptable without either parent taking additional action. Just in case, you should check with a New Mexico Family Law attorney about the relocation and the potential for changes in child custody.
However, if a parent is unable to meet an obligation under the custody order or the move affects a parent’s custody or visitation rights,the order will need to be modified. Even if the parents privately and verbally agree to change the order, any modifications should be formalized.
Different Ways To Modify The Custody Order
In a best-case scenario, you and the other parent will discuss the relocation and agree on how to change the custody order to accommodate it. This will save time, money, and the stress of contending with the other parent in court. Still, as mentioned above, the court should review the proposed change and ensure it is in the child’s best interests.
In evaluating the relocating parent’s request to move and the effect it will have on the custody order, a judge will consider several factors:
- The parent’s reason for relocating
- How close the child is with both parents
- The effect that the relocation will have on the other parent’s relationship with the child
- The child’s ties to his or her current location
Remember, the court’s paramount concern in any matter affecting custody, including relocation, is the child’s best interests. Before agreeing to the change, the judge will take a look at:
- The child’s involvement with school and extracurricular activities at his or her current location
- The child’s bonding and relationships with parents and friends in his or her current location
- How long the child has lived where he or she is now
- Whether there is any evidence the child will have trouble adjusting to the relocation
- Whether the proposed new living arrangement is safe and stable
- Any other issue that concerns the child’s best interests
Perhaps the parents agree in principle to the move, but simply can’t work out the details. Mediation may be able to help. Even if the question of relocation goes immediately to the court as a contested matter, there’s a good chance the judge will ask the parents to submit it to mediation first before participating in a full-blown trial.
Whether the parents can agree on the relocation or not, a motion to modify or a proposed order detailing the new schedule should be filed with the court. If mediation succeeds, the parties should file a proposed order detailing the newly agreed-upon schedule. The judge will review and sign the order if they feel the schedule is in the best interest of the child. If mediation fails, the parents will be able to make their arguments before the judge so a decision can be made.
How Matteucci Family Law Can Help
Where possible, we approach family law matters with the goal of out-of-court resolution. Attorney Bob Matteucci can help you draft proposed modifications to the existing order that reflect both your and the other parent’s wishes. A knowledgeable attorney will ensure that all potential issues are addressed by the modification and drafted in a manner the court will accept.
We can also assist with the mediation process. Bob Matteucci won’t represent either parent in the matter, but will instead use his experience as a New Mexico family law attorney to guide parents towards constructive resolutions