The issue of relocation can come up during a divorce or after, when a parenting plan is already in place. One parent wants to move out of state, or a significant distance away, making it substantially more difficult for the other parent to exercise custody or visitation. At Grant & Sain, PLLC, we understand the issues at stake and appreciate your desire to fight for your parental rights. But we also see the pitfalls of being too rigid and demanding, creating a backlash that can ultimately damage the loving relationship with your children you’re struggling to protect. In relocation disputes, we take a prudent approach: while we represent your interests, we know that the court cares only about the best interests of your children. But that doesn’t mean we won’t be aggressive when necessary, because we’re also fathers, and we’re committed to protecting our clients and their children.
Tennessee family law governing child custody is gender neutral, so courts are not supposed to favor mothers over fathers or vice versa. The law demands that the courts make decisions based on the best interests of the child rather than the impact on either parent. Thus, a parent who wants to relocate because of a great job opportunity should not get special consideration from the court apart from how that new job affects the child’s circumstances. For a parent who wants to relocate in order to remarry, the court will only consider how living in the new home will affect the child. The court begins that inquiry by looking at the current parenting plan.
In cases where the child spends “substantially equal intervals of time” with each parent, the law is neutral, containing no presumption in favor or against relocation. The court considers all relevant factors when determining whether relocation is in the child’s best interests. Factors written into the pertinent statute, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-108, include:
If the parent who has been spending the greater amount of time with the child wants to move, the presumption is in favor of relocation. However, the other parent can oppose the move by proving any of these three points:
These factors show that a dispute over relocation is driven by an exhaustive set of facts, each applied to a single question: Does it serve the best interests of the child?
If your ex is being vindictive in attempting to take your children away from you, you’ve got to fight for your parental rights, and you can trust Grant & Sain to fight hard to see you prevail. However, most requests for relocation are not vindictive. Many are self-centered, with parents giving more thought to their own happiness and projecting their views onto their children without much introspection. Others are either potentially neutral or beneficial for the child.
Generally, when you can’t present a strong reason for opposing relocation, the best path forward is to negotiate a modification of your parenting plan and present the agreement to the court for approval. For example, if parents have been trading off physical custody every other week, they might under a new plan agree to one parent having the children for the school year, while the other takes them for summer vacation and certain holidays. A negotiated plan allows parents — who know their situation and their children better than anyone — to control the outcome rather than a judge, who doesn’t know the children at all.
Reaching a negotiated solution to such an emotional issue is not easy. You need an attorney who possesses the knowledge and creativity to overcome obstacles and is determined to produce a positive outcome. When you hire Grant & Sain to manage your child custody dispute, that’s exactly the kind of service you get.
Grant & Sain, PLLC is your local law firm for child custody and relocation disputes in West Tennessee. We serve our family law clients as we would want to be served: professionally, capably and personally. To schedule a consultation, call 731-256-7477 or contact our Jackson office online.