Relocation with children after a divorce

"Move aways" after a divorce can lead to criminal charges

Child custody agreements are one of the longest-lasting elements of your divorce. If you had no children, after a divorce, you and your former spouse are likely to go your separate ways, and in the absence of spousal maintenance, may have little or no contact. Your divorce legally cuts the ties between a couple and once the dissolution is final, they can behave as strangers if they so choose.

But if you have children, your experience of divorce will be very different. Even though you and your spouse have separated, your child or children are a tie that binds, and your child custody agreement and child support, if any, will continue to keep you in almost constant contact with your former spouse.

Divorce is a contract

A divorce agreement is essentially a contract, so once it is approved by the court, you cannot simply change it unilaterally. It is always advisable if you need to make a change to your child custody arrangement or your visitation schedule that you work with an attorney.

They can help to ensure that the reasons for the changes are clear and are framed in the context of the best interests of the child. Ideally, you and your former spouse can come to a mutual agreement on the changes. If you and your child's other parent cannot agree, you will need to return to court and a judge will make the decision.

Do you have to move for a new job?

There may be good reasons for the change and that should be memorialized in writing and entered into the court record. Sometimes, a new job may necessitate a parent to relocate away from Knoxville or outside of Tennessee. This increases the complexity of the situation and you may need an attorney to assist with this modification.

One very important element to remember is never simply move away with your child without first securing the approval of your former spouse in a written agreement filed with the court.

Tennessee law on relocations and custodial interference

Tennessee has both a relocation statute and a custodial interference statute that could be used to prosecute a parent for interfering with the custodial rights of the other parent or removing a child from the state. An unauthorized "move away" could lead to a conviction for a Class E felony.

If you need to move because of a job, and you cannot come to an agreement on changing your custody and visitation arrangements, a judge will use what is in the best interests of the child as the standard to decide how to modify the agreement.

Court will review many factors for a modification

A judge will consider "all relevant factors," which will likely include the 11 factors in the statute. The overarching standard remains the best interests of the child. Where a move will benefit the child and is not being done principally to deny the other parent access to the child, a court may approve the relocation.

However, a court will examine how well the parents have worked together on the existing custody agreement, the love and affection shown the child by the parents and the stability of the family and many other elements of the life of the child and the parents before deciding.

These situations often produce difficult results, so as soon as you know you may have to move, you should speak with an attorney and begin the process of modifying your custody arrangement. Custodial interference could result in criminal charges, which could being more problems into your life. And when you are divorced with children, you do not need additional problems.