“Advance Notice” is More than Lip Service for Parents Sharing Child Custody

Daughter hugging mother at the lawyer's officeThe end of a marriage signals the beginning of a new life for the separated couple. In the spirit of starting anew, separated couples may decide to relocate and begin again in another city or state.

Reverting to life as a single adult in a new community won’t be easy, however, when there are children in the picture. The court may object to a relocation if it means that the distance will prevent the other parent from seeing his or her children or limit their time together.

As Day Shell & Liljenquist, L.C., a family law practice in Salt Lake City that specializes in child custody cases pointed out, Utah family court typically views joint legal custody as best for children. The court expects both parties to observe its ruling.

Should the parent who has physical custody need to relocate, however, the court will require him or her to give advance notice to the court and his or her ex-spouse. In family law, there’s more to “giving advance notice” than simply telling an ex-spouse about the plan to move.

Relocation, According to Family Law

Utah recognizes a relocation if the custodial parent’s new home is:

  • 150 miles or more from his or her current residence
  • 150 miles away or more from his or her ex-spouse

The relocating parent must inform the court and his or her ex-spouse about the move at least 60 days prior. Here’s the catch: this notice to the court must also include:

  1. A revised parenting schedule and statements that both parties approve of it
  2. Statements that both parents will follow the schedule and will allow each other to exercise their parental rights.

These requirements imply that ex-spouses need to discuss relocation earlier than the 60-day window the court is asking for. They also have to agree on parenting schedule before the 60-day window starts.

Is a Court Hearing Necessary?

A non-custodial parent or a parent who shares physical custody may contest his or her ex’s decision to relocate. If both parties will be unable to follow the court-approved parenting plan, and if they fail to agree on a new schedule, they can opt to have a court hearing. The court may also order a hearing if it decides that an investigation is necessary to learn if moving is in the best interests of the children. If the court finds that the relocation is not in their best interests, it may modify its custody ruling.

Utah family court takes into consideration the reasons for the move and the costs and difficulty that one or both parents may face to fulfill their obligations given the custodial parent’s new address. These are the cases that often see rulings like having the children stay with the non-custodial parent during summer, and with the custodial parent when school resumes.

Ex-spouses that find it hard to agree on parenting terms on their own will benefit from having experienced family law attorneys by their side. The latter can help in drafting agreeable plans which the court is also likely to approve. As long as both parents keep their children’s best interests at heart, they should arrive at an agreement that’s fair for everyone.