You may find that, after a divorce, more opportunities open up to you. You are no longer sharing a residence with your spouse, and you may even end up desiring to move away from your current home—maybe even relocate out of state. You might be seeking a job that pays better wages, looking for a better education, or even planning to move closer to relatives. Maybe you just want to escape some of the bad memories from your marriage.
It’s understandable that you might want to move away. But if you do it wrong, you can be in trouble—serious trouble. Because you don’t want to end up in jail—that’s right, we said “jail”—due to a hasty decision to move after a divorce, you need to consult your North Carolina family law attorneys before you move across state (or even county) lines.
If you have children with your ex-spouse, and if you are the custodial parent for at least one child, then your decision to move outside North Carolina (and maybe even outside your county of residence) may violate the court order for parenting time or visitation. Your former spouse can go to the court and report this violation, and the court may issue a warrant for your arrest.
So here’s your plan of action to make sure your move is legal:
- Talk to your attorney first.
- You or your lawyer will talk to your ex-spouse (or to his lawyer) to try to negotiate a compromise agreement on how the custody and visitation orders may need to be changed. If you and your ex can both agree, it simplifies things tremendously.
- Go to court. Ask for a modification of custody or visitation orders. If you and your ex have agreed, then the court will probably sign off on your agreement. If you haven’t been able to reach a compromise, then there will be a hearing to determine if moving is the best interest of the child or children. Your attorney can use evidence and witness testimony here to develop a compelling case in your favor.
- The judge issues his order. If all goes well, you will have permission to move.
Getting the judge to agree
Obviously, an essential part of getting the court to permit you to move is persuading the judge that both parents’ needs can be accommodated. Some of the ways we have done this include the following:
- “Virtual parenting time.” This means allowing the children to have frequent (perhaps even daily) contact with the noncustodial parent using computer video conferencing tools, such as Skype.
- Extended time with the alternate parent on holidays or vacation time. The kids might stay with your ex-spouse for significant stretches of time: the whole summer break, maybe, or during the Christmas to New Year winter break at school.
- Shifting the costs of transportation. If air travel would be needed for children to visit their noncustodial parent, you may find that assuming a significant part of the costs for airline tickets will make it more likely the judge will accept your revised parenting time plan.
Above all, do not use the opportunity to move out of state as a way to “get back at” your former spouse. It’s likely that such a plan will be recognized as the manipulative attempt it is, and the judge will deny your request. Even trying it may poison your relationship with your children and your ex-spouse.
Improving your life
Moving out of state after a North Carolina divorce—especially when you are pursuing educational or job opportunities—can be essential for a better life for you and your children. At Speaks Law Firm, our Wilmington divorce lawyers have helped many people develop innovative child custody plans that allow both parents to hold onto their roles in their children’s futures. Call us at 910-341-7570 or toll-free at 877-593-4233 for advice and legal representation.