Move-Away Divorce: When Your Former Spouse Takes Your Children to Live Outside North Carolina

The divorce was difficult enough. You almost lost your patience several times, but you successfully kept your emotions in check so you wouldn’t upset the children. But now your ex-spouse has gone too far; she told you she is moving out of state in order to get a better job, and she’s taking the kids with her.

You are devastated. You love your children. What are you going to do?

The tragic nature of move-away cases

As child custody lawyers in Wilmington, we’ve seen this story play out too many times. When the parent with primary custody moves out of North Carolina after the divorce, severe strain is placed on many of the bonds between the other parent and the children. Maintaining a healthy relationship between the kids and both parents ought to be a key concern, but how can a relationship flourish when the families live hundreds of miles apart?

To be fair, most move-away cases are not motivated by spite or a determination to inflict pain on the non-custodial parent. The parent who is moving may well have a legitimate reason to leave North Carolina, such as:

  • Better employment prospects or a confirmed job offer
  • The desire to be close to other relatives
  • Education options available in another state
  • Romantic interest in someone who lives out of state
  • The need to provide care for an ailing relative or friend
  • To escape bad memories or an unpleasant situation in North Carolina

If you are the non-custodial parent or if you have joint custody after your divorce, you have the option to file an objection to your ex-spouse’s decision to relocate. The decision to move even a significant distance within North Carolina may put your former spouse in violation of the custody or visitation agreements.

This means you have the option of asking the court to intervene. Yes, the judge has the power to prevent your ex-spouse from moving away. You should begin by reviewing your separation or divorce agreement with your New Hanover County divorce attorney. His counsel will help you decide if legal action will be the best move.

Going back to court

If you file a petition to have the court review this case, both parents (and their attorneys) will be called to a hearing. The judge will consider the reasons behind the planned move and weigh them against your legitimate rights to connect with your minor children. The opinions of a parent who has sole custody—rather than joint custody—are likely to be favored in this hearing, but the prior court order setting the grounds for visitation won’t be set aside lightly.

If the move seems to be in the best interest of the children, the judge will modify the custody and visitation orders to permit the former spouse to relocate.

The stakes could not be higher. When state lines divide parent and child, the relationship between them changes forever. It is essential that you have skilled legal representation if you want to prevent a move-away order. Your attorney must be familiar with North Carolina family law precedents and federal rules, such as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, to argue effectively in favor of your parental rights.

This is not a job that you can tackle on your own. When you need reliable North Carolina family law guidance, call 877-593-4233 toll-free to connect to the Speaks Law Firm. Our attorneys serve clients in the Wilmington area, especially New Hanover County, Brunswick County, Columbus County, Robeson County, and Pender County.