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Woman with her two young children packing boxes to move to another town. Can You Relocate with a Child Custody Order?
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Can You Relocate with a Child Custody Order? Here’s What You Need to Know

Can You Relocate with a Child Custody Order? Here’s What You Need to Know

Woman with her two young children packing boxes to move to another town. Can You Relocate with a Child Custody Order?

Life changes can often lead to the need for relocation, whether it’s due to a new job, a desire to be closer to family, or other personal reasons. But what if you have a child custody order in place? At Stallard & Bellof, we often hear from parents wondering if they can relocate with a child custody order in place. Here’s what you need to know.

The Reality of Moving with a Custody Order

Moving is common in the United States, with the average person relocating about 11.4 times in their lifetime. The reasons vary—new relationships, job opportunities, retirement, being closer to family, or even just wanting a change in climate. But when you have a child custody order, things get more complicated.

If your custody order was made when both parents lived in the same area, and now one parent wants to move, what happens next? If the custody order doesn’t specifically address relocation, and if the parents can’t agree on what to do, a court may need to step in. The court will then decide if the children can move with the relocating parent and what the new parenting schedule will look like.

The Best Interests of the Child

In any custody case, the most important factor is always the best interests of the child. Once a custody order is set, it can only be changed if there’s been a significant change in circumstances that affects the child’s well-being and the change in custody is in the child’s best interest. The parent seeking the change must prove that circumstances have significantly changed.

Is Moving a Significant Change?

Simply changing the custodial parent’s residence isn’t enough to modify a custody order. For a court to change the order due to relocation, it must be shown that the move affects the child’s welfare. After establishing that a significant change has occurred, the court will then look at which parent can provide the best environment for the child.

Key Factors the Court Will Consider

  • Benefits of the Move: Will the move improve the child’s life, offering better educational opportunities, a safer environment, or closer family support?
  • Parent’s Motives: Why does the custodial parent want to move? Is it for legitimate reasons or to interfere with the child’s relationship with the other parent?
  • Compliance with Visitation Orders: Will the moving parent adhere to the visitation schedule and ensure the other parent maintains a meaningful relationship with the child?
  • Noncustodial Parent’s Reasons: Are the objections to the move based on genuine concern for the child’s well-being or other motives?
  • Feasible Visitation Schedule: Can a realistic visitation schedule be arranged to preserve the relationship between the child and the noncustodial parent?

Making the Decision to Relocate

Relocating when you have a child custody order is a major decision that can have significant implications for your family. It’s essential to approach this situation thoughtfully and consider all factors involved. If you’re considering moving or facing a custody dispute related to relocation, it’s crucial to seek legal advice.


Deciding to relocate when you have a child custody order is a significant decision that requires careful consideration of various factors. The court’s primary concern will always be the best interests of the child, evaluating the potential benefits of the move, the motives behind it, and the feasibility of maintaining a strong relationship with the noncustodial parent. Simply changing your residence is not enough to justify modifying a custody order; you must demonstrate that the move will positively impact your child’s welfare.

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Carolyn Bellof

Carolyn Bellof is a Certified Family Law Specialist in North Carolina. She brings empathy and a personal understanding of loss and resilience to her clients, ensuring their legal needs are protected during emotionally challenging family law proceedings.

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If you are considering relocating with a child custody order or facing a custody dispute related to relocation, contact Stallard & Bellof today. Our experienced family law attorneys are here to help you navigate this complex process and protect your rights and your child's best interests.

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