What Considerations Govern Relocation Of Children After Divorce?

The statute governing a parent relocating with children more than 150 miles from the residence of the other parent is contained in the Utah Code Annotated 30-3-37. That statute contains various rules of how relocation should occur. First and foremost, any parent wishing to relocate with the children, if it’s going to be more than 150 miles away from the residence of the other parent, that parent has to provide notice to the other party at least 60 days in advance. That notice needs to contain a statement that the relocating parent will not interfere with the other parent’s parental rights or court-ordered parent time. Furthermore, it should include a statement that either both parties have agreed on a parent time schedule, or they will agree on parent-time schedule, or that the parent-time schedule set forth in the relocation statute itself will be followed. The reason this notice must be given is to provide the non-relocating party an opportunity to take the matter to court if they disagree with the relocation.

The statute then sets forth the methods by which a party objecting to the relocation may request a hearing, how soon that hearing must occur, and what the default schedule will be if relocation is allowed. If the children are at least 5 years old, and if the statute’s “default schedule” is put in place, the non-custodial parent will have every other spring break, every other Thanksgiving holiday, every other winter break, every other fall break, and one-half of the summer. The non-custodial parent will also be allowed one weekend per month if they wish it, and at their own expense. If they want the weekend and month, they’ll have to bear the travel costs.

If the children are under 5, then the court is more likely to deviate from that standard schedule. The court is required to take into account the age of the children, the development or needs of the children, the distance between the parents’ homes, travel arrangements and costs, the level of attachment between one custodial parent, and any other factors that the court considers might be in that children’s best interest.

The court can apply this statute to any pre-existing decree of divorce, and any previous custody order, if the parties weren’t married.

What Is The Process To Make A Request For Relocation In Utah?

Once proper notice has been given, if the non-custodial parent does not dispute the relocation, the parties don’t have to go to court. If the proper notice has been given, including that the schedule is set forth in 30-3-37 will apply, and the non-custodial parent does not object, then that will become the new parent time schedule, and the parties do not have to go to court. If the parties reach an agreement as to what the new schedule will be, then they don’t have to go to court.

However, if the non-relocating party disagrees with the relocation, then they can request a hearing. Under the statute, it can be an expedited hearing, meaning that the court must set it on the court’s calendar quickly.

If the court sets a relocation hearing, either party may file pleadings, papers with the court explaining their reasons for the move, the factors that they think are relevant to the children’s best interest, why relocation should or should not occur, what the travel arrangements for the children should be and who should bear the cost of it. At the hearing, the court will make decisions regarding all of these things. Relocation will often take place in front of the court commissioner if he or she is available, rather than a judge. These will usually be relatively short hearings, similar to a temporary order’s hearings, as opposed to a trial.

However, this does not prevent a party from filing a petition to modify the divorce decree and asking for custody, or asking for a more thorough and more considered decision from a judge.

What Are The Restrictions And Where And When A Parent Can Relocate In Utah Law?

If a custody decree is already in place, or if litigation is already pending, the court will generally require the 60-day notice before granting a relocation request.

However, if no custody litigation has begun, then the court does not have jurisdiction to prevent a party from relocating with the children wherever and whenever they wish. For example, if two parents are living together, and one wishes to leave and neither party has filed anything with the court, then there is nothing preventing them from relocating. That said, once litigation has begun, the courts might choose to require the children to come back, or custody to change if the relocation is not in the children’s best interest.

There are no hard and fast rules about where a party can relocate. That said, the further the distance, particularly if the relocation is out of the country, the more scrutiny the relocation will receive from the court. The court is going to be more troubled by extremely long distance relocations, particularly if the non-custodial parent does not have the financial resources to bear much in the way of travel expenses and visitation. However, the degree of distance is only one of the factors that the court considers.

How Are Transportation Costs Divided Amongst Parents?

The parties may agree to any sharing of transportation cost that they wish. If they can reach an agreement, that is preferable. If they cannot reach an agreement, then the statute 30-3-37 will begin with the presumption that the party relocating with the children should bear the majority of the child’s travel expenses. Essentially, the court will generally require the relocating parent to pay for all of the travel expenses relating to Spring Break, Thanksgiving, Winter break or Fall break, and half of the travel expenses for Summer break. However, the non-custodial parent will be required generally to bear travel expenses for the monthly visit if they wish to exercise one weekend per month.

For more information on Relocation With Children After A Divorce, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (801) 616-3301 today.

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*Child Welfare Law Specialist Nat’l Assoc. of Counsel for Children