When deciding on a relocation petition, there are several factors that the court considers. These factors are set forth in the statute and include the nature, quality and extent of the child’s relationship with the parent proposing to relocate, as well as the nature, quality and extent of involvement with the non-relocating parent. They also consider the child’s involvement with other people in their life, such as siblings and half-siblings. The court will do a balancing act between the parent with the intent to relocate and the parent who wishes to remain, and who objects to the relocation.
Additional factors are the age and developmental stage of the child, the needs of the child and the likely impact that relocation will have on the child’s physical and emotional development. In deciding the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent, the court will weigh substitute arrangements and take into consideration the logistics of contact, access and timesharing. All of this must be weighed against the financial circumstances of the parties and whether or not these factors are sufficient to foster a continuing and meaningful relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent. The court will examine the likelihood of compliance with substitute arrangements by the relocating parent. So, it’s not enough to examine the proposed arrangements themselves; but to also make a determination as to whether or not the parent who is relocating will likely abide by the schedule.
If the child is of adequate age and maturity, then the court will also consider the child’s preference.
The next factor the court will look at is whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for the parent who is seeking relocation, which would include financial, emotional, and educational benefits. Is the parent going to move because he or she gets a better job? Some parents need to move because they can’t afford to live on their own and they have to move in with family. If relocation is granted, what benefits are there for the child, both financially and in terms of educational opportunities? Is there extended family where the child will be moving? Is the child going to be alone, or will he or she be adequately cared for? These are some of the questions that must be considered.
A major factor that the court considers is the reason behind the parent’s desire to relocate. Are they seeking to relocate because it will benefit their and their child’s life? Or are they actually seeking relocation in order to spite the other parent and to keep them from their child? Likewise, is the parent who is objecting doing so because they feel that they really just can’t continue to have a relationship with the child if the relocation happens, or are they just being spiteful and trying to ruin the relocating parent’s life?
The next factor to be considered is the current employment and economic circumstances of each parent and whether the proposed relocation is necessary to improve the economic circumstances of the parent or the person seeking to relocate with the child. The next consideration is whether or not the objecting parent has fulfilled his or her financial obligations to the parent seeking relocation, including child support, spousal support and marital debt obligations. Have they starved the relocating parent by not fulfilling their financial obligations, thereby forcing the relocating parent to leave? The courts will look at the good faith on both sides of that issue. The court is also going to consider the opportunities and costs associated with maintaining continuing contact with the child after relocation. If the objecting parent would need to fly to see their child, there is a financial burden which likewise, needs to be considered.
The next factor that the court will consider would be a history of substance abuse or domestic violence by either parent. This would include a consideration of the severity of such conduct and failure or success at any attempts at rehabilitation. Lastly, the court will consider any other factors that affect the best interest of the child. So, there are 10 total factors that the statute spells out, followed by a “catchall” for any other factor you can think of.
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