Imagine you’ve had custody of your children for years while living in the same town as their parent, who sees them on weekends. A job opportunity in the next state over comes up for you, but you’re left wondering: am I allowed to make the move and retain custody? What about if you just want to move to a different city or county?

The answer isn’t simple. It’s a combination of court orders, compromise, and considering the kids’ best interests, in addition to looking at whether there are extenuating circumstances. The factors that you’ll need to weigh all come down to urgency and benefits of the move, along with your ex-spouse’s willingness to cooperate.

Some relocation scenarios to consider

It’s no guarantee that a relocation will be granted, but take a look at some hypothetical Q&As about whether and when it’s possible:

Q: What if financial circumstances are preventing me, the custodial parent, from staying in this city? (I.e., the city is too expensive, spousal support payments aren’t sufficient, job loss, etc.)

A: The best approach is to ask your ex-spouse to agree and sign documentation to submit to the court with the new changes. If that doesn’t work, it’s possible to file a modification request with a judge.

Q: Can I include a relocation clause in my initial divorce paperwork to set up the possibility down the road?

A: While you can technically include a relocation clause, nothing can happen with it until the actual details of a possible move emerge, which will weigh into the ultimate deciding factor. Your attorney can help you better understand whether such a clause would be beneficial.

Q: If there’s nothing in our divorce agreement that specifically prohibits a move, will I break the law by relocating without permission?

A: Doing this may allow your ex-spouse to file a complaint with the court, either prohibiting your from relocating again or, in a worst-case scenario, revoking your custody. It’s best to try to compromise with your kids’ other parent before making any decisions of this nature.

You can file a petition in court to move, and apart from financial and logistical concerns, the judge will weigh whether time with the other parent is compromised and whether it could disrupt the child’s life. If you submit a visitation plan, it might help the case.

Always consult your attorney before making any moves related to changing the terms of custody.