If you have primary custody of your children, or if you share custody with your former spouse, can you move with your children?

Do you need the court’s permission to move with your children? Can the other parent stop you from moving with your kids? In some cases, you do need the court’s permission and the other parent can stop you from moving with the kids – for example, if you intend to move out of state with the children and the move is not in the child’s best interest. 

If you plan on moving in-state with your children, however, it is not likely that the other parent can stop you. 

In this article, you will learn:

  • What happens if you have custody and want to move within South Carolina,
  • What happens if you have custody and want to move to another state, and
  • When you can prevent the other parent from relocating with your children.

Moving With Your Children When You Share Custody in South Carolina

What happens if you have primary custody in SC of your children and want to move? The major determining factor here is whether you want to move to a different part of South Carolina or if you want to move out of state. 

Either way, you will most likely be allowed to do so as long as you are making the move for the right reasons. Below we will cover the various factors a Court uses to determine if you can move with your children. But first, what if you are the noncustodial parent and you want to prevent the custodial parent from moving? 

You are the Noncustodial Parent and Custodial Parent is Moving in State

If you are the noncustodial parent and you want to prevent the custodial parent from moving within the state of SC, there is probably not much that you can do unless there are extraordinary and unusual circumstances. 

If the court does not prevent the relocation, you may be able to get the court to order a modification of visitation and who is responsible for transporting the child for visitation. 

You are the Noncustodial Parent and Custodial Parent is Moving Out of State

If the custodial parent is planning on relocating to another state without your consent, you will want to move quickly to prevent the move. You will need to present evidence to prove to the court that the move:

  • Is not in the child’s best interest,
  • Will have a negative effect on the child’s wellbeing,
  • Is motivated by spitefulness or vindictiveness on the part of the other parent, and
  • Will substantially burden your visitation rights and negatively impact your ongoing relationship with your child.

Whether you are seeking to move out of state with your child or prevent the other parent from moving out of state with your child, you should consult with your family law attorney immediately to find out what your rights are and what steps you should take next.

Custodial Parent Who Wants to Relocate within SC

If you are the custodial parent and you intend to move with your children in-state, SC Code Section 63-3-350(30) says that the court cannot prohibit your relocation unless 1) there is a compelling reason, or 2) both parents have previously agreed not to relocate. 

That doesn’t mean the court will allow you to relocate without making changes to your visitation arrangement, however. 

For example, if you intend to relocate to the other side of the state and the other parent will now have a four-hour drive to pick up their child, the court might adjust the terms of your court order to make accommodations for the other parent, like their:

  • Visitation schedule – the court may order reasonable terms for the other parent’s visitation times, including increased visitation, reduced visitation, or changes in the dates and times of visitation; and
  • Responsibility for transportation to visitation – if you are moving further away from the other parent, you cannot expect them to make the drive to pick up their child. The court may order you to meet them halfway or the court may order you to transport the child the entire distance because it was your choice to move further away.

The bottom line is that, in most cases, the courts will not prevent a custodial parent from moving with their children if they are relocating in-state, but there may be adjustments made to visitation and the responsibility for transporting the child to visits with the other parent.

Custodial Parent Who Wants to Relocate to Another State

Although the court is more likely to prohibit your move if it is to another state, the court may approve the relocation if you can show that the move is in the child’s best interest and will not prevent an ongoing relationship between the child and the noncustodial parent. 

Prior to 2004, there was a presumption against allowing relocation out of state. In Latimer v. Farmer, however, the SC Supreme Court held that there is no longer a presumption against relocation and that the courts must consider whether the move is in the child’s best interest. 

The courts must consider factors including:

  • The potential advantages of the proposed move – for example, in the Latimer case, the father’s relocation to Michigan allowed him to spend more time with the child because his new job did not require him to travel. Also, the father had a stable family environment in Michigan, while the mother had a history of unstable discord with her family in SC.
  • The potential to improve the quality of life for both custodial parent and child – “It must not be the result of a whim on the part of the custodial parent.” In Latimer, the Court found that there was a “dependable and loving family environment in Michigan;” therefore, the child’s quality of life would be enhanced.
  • The “integrity of the motives” of the custodial parent in moving or of the noncustodial parent in trying to prevent the move – The motives must weigh in favor of the child’s best interest. In Latimer, for example, the Court found that the father’s motivation for moving was job related, and the parents’ motives for moving (the father) and opposing the move (the mother) were not spiteful or vindictive.
  • The potential for “a realistic substitute visitation arrangement that will adequately foster an ongoing relationship” between the noncustodial parent and child – In Latimer, the Court noted that the relationship between the mother and child would be affected and the travel distance was a hardship but also found that the mother would still have “extensive contact with Child given the distance involved.”

If you want to persuade the family court that an out-of-state relocation is in your child’s best interest, you will need to present evidence in the form of documents or witness testimony to prove why it is in the child’s best interest, focusing on the factors listed above. 

Your request to relocate with your child is more likely to be granted when you can show the benefits of relocation – the parent is getting a better job, the child will have better academic opportunities, there will be additional family support at the new location, and there will be reasonable opportunities for visitation with the noncustodial parent. 

You will want to demonstrate to the court that you are not making the decision for spiteful or vindictive reasons, and that the move will improve the child’s quality of life.

Questions About Relocating with Your Children?

If you considering relocating with your children when you have primary custody or if you need to prevent the other parent from relocating with your children, contact the SC divorce attorneys at Templeton, Mims & Ward at 843-285-5090 or by sending us an email through our website to set up a consultation and find out how we can help.

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