Relocation: Can I Move My Kids After a Connecticut Divorce?
Updated November 23, 2023
Life goes on after divorce, and changing opportunities and circumstances sometimes mean one parent wants to relocate and move with the kids out of town or Connecticut. But relocation after divorce is complicated when you have children. There are many good reasons to want to move after a divorce. Sometimes, the parent wants to move because of a new professional or educational opportunity. Other times, it’s to be nearer to extended family or a new spouse or partner. The ultimate question is, “Can I move with my kids after my divorce?”
But there are serious considerations from the court’s perspective. Read on to learn more about how relocation works.
The Most Important Thing to Know Before You Relocate After Divorce
“Relocation” is the legal term when a parent seeks to relocate and move with the kids after a Connecticut divorce.
Speak with an experienced lawyer before you move or as soon as you learn your co-parent wants to move.
The court’s orders in the parenting plan often set out where and when a parent can move with the kids. You may not have to return to court if the proposed relocation falls within those parameters. Suppose it does not fall within the current plan, though. In that case, the parent who wants to move away may have to file a post judgment modification of the existing custody order to request permission for the move and an adjusted parenting plan. The parent who is staying put can also file seeking to prevent the other parent from moving with the children. If you’d prefer to reach an agreement rather than litigate, mediation and collaborative law are options to consider. In most cases, we submit the agreement to the court so that it becomes an enforceable court order.
How Does the Connecticut Court Decide Whether a Parent Can Relocate and Move the Kids Post Divorce?
In Connecticut, when one of the parents wants to relocate and move with the kids after a divorce in Connecticut, we file a motion for modification based on “relocation.” Section 46b-56d of the Connecticut statutes explains that the court must first determine whether the move would substantially impact the existing parenting plan.
This is quite dependent on both the current living situation and the existing plan. For example, a move within the same town might not affect most parenting plans without a required change in schools. Even a move across Connecticut might not impact the existing parenting if one parent lives internationally. However, it may substantially impact the parenting plan if the two parents live in the same neighborhood and one parent hopes to move out of state with the children.
What is the Connecticut Legal Standard for Relocation with Children Post-Divorce?
If the court finds that the existing parenting arrangement would be significantly affected by the proposed relocation, the statute says that the relocating parent must prove that “(1) the relocation is for a legitimate purpose, (2) the proposed location is reasonable in light of such purpose, and (3) the relocation is in the best interests of the child.”
Every family’s facts are unique, just as every child is unique. Generally speaking, in the past Connecticut courts have found that better employment for the parent can be a legitimate reason to relocate. In some cases, courts have found that proximity to extended family is a legitimate purpose for relocation.
Best Interests of the Child
The parent who wants to relocate must demonstrate to the court that the move is in the child’s best interest. As we have discussed before, Connecticut courts are moving away from purely focusing on things like “primary residence,” “and whether “custody” is “shared” or “sole.” Instead, Courts consider the actual parenting schedule and the child’s relationship with both parents. Section 46b-56d spells out what the court should consider in determining the child’s best interests:
- Each parent’s reasons for seeking or opposing the relocation.
- The quality of the relationships between the child and each parent.
- The impact of the relocation on the quantity and the quality of the child’s future contact with the non-relocating parent.
- The degree to which the relocating parent’s and the child’s life may be enhanced economically, emotionally and educationally by the relocation.
- The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the non-relocating parent and the child through suitable visitation arrangements.”
The judge can also consider other factors it deems appropriate.
5 Reasons Why a Judge May Deny Relocation in Connecticut
Now that you know the legal standard, let’s talk about how it may play out in court.
Reason 1: Lack of Good Faith in Proposing the Relocation
One possible reason why the court may deny a relocation request is if the judge finds that the relocating parent lacks good faith in proposing the move. Good faith refers to the sincerity and honesty of the relocating parent’s intentions. Suppose there are indications that the relocation request is motivated by a desire to limit the non-relocating parent’s access to the child or to gain an advantage in custody proceedings. In that case, the judge may view the request unfavorably.
Providing a well-reasoned and legitimate explanation for the proposed move is essential to avoid being perceived as lacking good faith. Demonstrating that the relocation is necessary for valid reasons, such as better job opportunities, educational advantages, or improved quality of life for the child, can help strengthen your case.
Additionally, maintaining open and transparent communication with the non-relocating parent throughout the process can demonstrate your willingness to cooperate and minimize any doubts about your intentions.
Reason 2: Detrimental Impact on the Child’s Relationship with the Non-Relocating Parent
Another crucial factor in relocation cases is the potential impact on the child’s relationship with the non-relocating parent. Connecticut courts prioritize maintaining and fostering a solid relationship between the child and both parents, especially when it is deemed to be in the child’s best interests.
If a judge determines that the proposed relocation will significantly hinder the child’s ability to maintain a meaningful relationship with the non-relocating parent, it may lead to a denial of the relocation request. Factors that may contribute to this determination include distance, travel costs, and the proposed parenting plan’s feasibility.
When presenting your case, it’s crucial to address this concern head-on. Providing a detailed parenting plan that ensures regular and consistent contact between the child and the non-relocating parent can help alleviate concerns and demonstrate your commitment to fostering a healthy parent-child relationship.
Reason 3: Insufficient Evidence to Support the Need for Relocation
To secure a successful relocation outcome, you must provide sufficient evidence to support the need for the move. Connecticut courts require the relocating parent to demonstrate that the relocation is necessary and in the child’s best interests.
Evidence supporting the need for relocation can include factors such as better job opportunities, educational advantages, access to specialized medical care, or improved living conditions. Additionally, providing evidence that the proposed destination offers a supportive environment for the child, such as proximity to family or a strong social network, can strengthen your case.
It’s essential to gather and present compelling evidence that clearly demonstrates the benefits of the proposed relocation. This can include documents such as job offer letters, school enrollment information, or expert opinions, if applicable. By presenting a strong case supported by sufficient evidence, you increase your chances of convincing the judge to grant the relocation request.
Reason 4: Failure to Support a Suitable Alternative Parenting Plan
When considering a relocation request, Connecticut courts focus on ensuring that the child’s best interests are met. Therefore, the judge will generally evaluate the proposed alternative parenting plan in the event they approve the relocation.
If the relocating parent fails to provide a suitable and comprehensive alternative parenting plan, it can weaken their case. The proposed plan should address important aspects such as visitation schedules, transportation arrangements, and how the child’s relationship with the non-relocating parent will be maintained.
It’s crucial to develop a detailed and feasible parenting plan that addresses the logistics of long-distance co-parenting. This can involve exploring options for visitation during school breaks, sharing travel expenses, or utilizing technology to facilitate regular communication between the child and the non-relocating parent. By presenting a well-thought-out alternative parenting plan, you demonstrate your commitment to maintaining the child’s relationship with the non-relocating parent.
Reason 5: Failure to Consider the Child’s Best Interests
Ultimately, if you want to relocate after divorce and you have a child, it’s critical to know that the most significant consideration in relocation cases is the child’s best interests. Connecticut courts prioritize the child’s well-being and aim to ensure that any decisions made are in their best interests.
A judge may deny a relocation request if they believe that the proposed move would negatively impact the child’s overall well-being. Factors that may contribute to this determination include disruption of stable relationships, educational disadvantages, or the child’s strong ties to their current community.
To address this concern, it’s essential to demonstrate that the proposed relocation will provide the child with enhanced opportunities and a supportive environment. Highlighting the potential benefits, such as better schools, access to recreational activities, or a safer neighborhood, can help convince the judge that the move is in the child’s best interests.
Common Mistakes to Avoid in Relocation Cases
When navigating issues surrounding a parent’s desire to relocate after a divorce, it’s important to avoid common mistakes that could hinder your chances of success. Some common pitfalls include:
1. Failing to comply with the legal notice requirements: Ensure you provide the non-relocating parent with proper written notice within the required timeframe.
2. Overlooking the importance of maintaining a positive relationship with the non-relocating parent: Cooperation and effective communication can go a long way in demonstrating your willingness to foster a healthy co-parenting dynamic.
3. Neglecting to gather and present sufficient evidence: Compile all necessary documents and evidence to support your case, demonstrating the need for relocation and the child’s best interests.
4. Presenting an unrealistic or incomplete alternative parenting plan: Develop a comprehensive and feasible plan that addresses the logistics of long-distance co-parenting.
Relocating after a divorce is complex when you have children. The specifics of how post-divorce relocation might work in your case depend on the ins and outs of your family situation and your existing plan.
Our first step at Freed Marcroft, the Goals & Planning Conference, is designed to get to the heart of your problem and unveil your true goals for parenting. Once we discover your goals for your life, we are able to take our collective experience with relocation, law, strategy, courts, judges, and other lawyers, and build a plan customized for you.