can i keep my ex from leaving state

Can My Ex Relocate w/ the Kids?

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In most situations, divorce represents a titanic life change, one with lasting repercussions. A traumatic experience, after ending a marriage, many people want to get as far away as possible. If it’s just you, that’s simple enough. But when there are kids involved, it complicates matters.

What to do if your ex has custody and wants to relocate?

Moving to a new house within the same school district is one thing. In these cases, the noncustodial parent has no grounds to object, though the new contact information should be shared.

But a great distance, outside of the child’s current school district or to another state, is something else entirely.

Here in Washington the custodial parent is required to provide at least 60 days notice.

The reasons to relocate after divorce are many. Escaping negative memories is big, new career and employment opportunities often figure into the decision, and being near family, friends, or a support system often plays a role. As with many issues in dissolving a marriage, children muddy the waters. Moving out of state impacts the lives of everyone,  both parents and kids.

Parenting Plan And Relocation

Creating a parenting plan is a big part of the divorce process when children figure into the equation. This is where you and your spouse hash out the details when it comes to your respective parenting duties. The two sides must arrange primary custody, visitation, child support, and more.

Laying the groundwork for a parenting plan can be a challenge in the best of circumstances. Schedules come into play and all manner of logistical concerns get in the way. It’s difficult enough to set up vacations, weekend visits, soccer games, after school activities, and all the rest if you and your ex live in the same place.

A great deal of effort goes into this, and your parenting plan will likely have quite a bit to say about whether or not your ex can relocate with your kids. In order to move, the custodial parent must file for a modification to the current custody agreement and request permission.

If there isn’t a parenting plan or custody order in play, the custodial parent may be free to move at will. At least as long as there are no violations of Washington’s laws against custodial interference or the Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

Relocation Hearings

The good news for you is that your ex can’t simply decide to relocate with the kids. Like most things regarding kids, there’s a process and a procedure to follow and you have recourse. Moving away without the express permission of the court can result in contempt charges, fines, and even jail time. The most common way to obtain this authorization is through a relocation hearing.

If your ex and wants to relocate with the kids, unless you’re okay with that, you’ll likely wind up in front of a judge.

In Washington, the custodial parent is required to give a minimum of 60 days notice before the move. Once notice is served, the noncustodial parent has 30 days to file a formal objection.

After that, a trial will be set to determine whether or not the move is in the best interest of the child.

How Does The Court Decide?

When it comes to child custody and matters involving minors, the best interest of the kids trumps almost everything else. This is what the courts weigh most heavily in these matters. Much more than parental preference or convenience.

Your ex may argue that moving to a new area enhances the children’s quality of life.

  • Perhaps there’s a new job or financial opportunity,
  • an extended network of family to provide childcare,
  • or increased stability.
  • Remarriage is also a common drive in these cases,
  • and perhaps the child’s needs will be better met in a new environment.

There are a wide variety of reasons why people chose to relocate.

If you hope to block this, you have to show that where the child lives currently is the best possible situation. This can be tough, and the custodial parent usually has the edge.

The court will examine and judge a number of factors when making its decision. The strain of removing the child from a familiar environment and of reducing contact with the non-custodial parent are two elements that play into this.

Do You Have To Go Court If Your Ex Want To Relocate?

Relocation hearings don’t always happen when one parent wants to move away or out of state. If you and your ex can work out the details together, it’s possible to come to an arrangement on your own. It may be complicated, but it is an option.

In the case of an out-of-state move, both parents will have to give their consent and sign the appropriate documents. Before relocation can happen, a judge still has to sign off on the matter and approve the move.

How To Make It Work

No matter how prepared you are, your ex may be granted permission to relocate with your children. Ideally, this decision will truly be what’s best for the kids, not one made out of spite or bitterness. Though that doesn’t make being apart from your family any easier. And a great distance creates a new set of logistical problems to overcome.

As your usual visitation won’t likely work anymore, you’ll have to make other arrangements.

  • Instead of weekly overnights, perhaps your ex will make additional concessions.
  • You may be able to coordinate longer visits over holidays, summer vacations, or breaks from school.

Travel is another issue you may face after relocation. The distance may be too large to drive and the kids have to fly back and forth.

In this situation, who pays for the plane tickets? Are they even old enough fly by themselves? If you go to them, if you make the effort to visit the new city, you’re going to incur your own travel costs.

These are all issues that you will have to confront and deal with. Hopefully, both sides are amicable and able to work out a beneficial arrangement for everyone involved.

Communication Afterwards

Even if you aren’t able to visit your children in person as often, there are many other options for communication. With cell phones, text messages, video chats, and social media, there are more tools available than ever before. Just because you’re far away, doesn’t mean you don’t have opportunities to interact and stay in touch with the kids.

Though there may be a great physical distance, you can remain an active part of your child’s life.

  • Make sure that the flow of information doesn’t dry up.
  • Do your best to keep up to date on their daily lives.
  • Whether it’s medical appointments, baseball games, grades, or disciplinary issues, keep the lines of communication as open as possible.

These may be the mundane details, but they’re important to maintaining an active presence in your children’s lives.


The level of communication between you and your ex after divorce will likely vary a great deal. But if you have kids, there will necessarily be at least some form of interaction. Ideally, if your former spouse intends to relocate, she’ll tell you well in advance. She’s legally required to, but hopefully, there will be more than the minimum. Maybe even if it’s just an idea, or she applies for a job in a new city, she’ll broach the subject.

The more notice you receive, the more time you have to prepare. Either to contest the proposed move or to hammer out the logistics of the new arrangement. If you do plan to fight relocation, and the two sides can’t come to an agreement, you may want to hire an attorney to help with the court process. These trials can be complex and contentious, and it may be your best option to have someone represent your rights and interests.

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