Relocation & Child Custody Lawyers in Maine
After a divorce, your life continues to move forward, and your circumstances may change. For one reason or another, be it a job change, going back to school for a new career, or a new marriage, you may want to relocate.
If you have parental rights granting you custody of your children, relocating may not be quite as simple.
If you are considering a move, it is crucial that you discuss your plans with an experienced Maine family law attorney. Your attorney can inform you of your rights and responsibilities for the relocation and ensure that you take all the legally necessary steps in relocating.
What happens if you want to relocate with your children?
It is both law and public policy in Maine that children are assured of frequent and continuing contact with both parents, even after parents have divorced, separated or ended their relationship.
As such, if a parent wishes to relocate with the children more than 60 miles away from the relocating parent’s residence and more than 60 miles away from the non-moving parent’s home, certain measures are required to ensure the state policy is still adhered to.
Moving alone is one thing but moving with the children could mean that it would deprive the children of ongoing contact with the other parent — which is not deemed to be in the child’s best interests unless the non-relocating parent approves the move.
The relocating parent must deliver notice of the intended move to the other parent no less than 30 days before the proposed move.
The Maine courts take this matter seriously and if the other parent objects to the relocation, a judge will need to intervene and there may be a trial. The parent intending to relocate will need to apply for a change of the parental rights and responsibilities (custody) order.
If there are safety issues involved, measures will be taken to ensure the safety of the child. For instance, if the relocating parent believes that notification of the relocation to the other parent could endanger the child, the parent can request that the court provides notice to the other parent.
Will the Court Approve Your Move?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer as to whether the court will approve your move with your children. In making its decision, the court will take several factors into account. They will consider:
- The desires of the children
- The desires of the other parent
- The social, emotional, physical, psychological, and educational needs of the children
- The ability of each parent to permit and support frequent and continued interaction between the child and the other parent
They are not allowed to consider the gender of the parents or the children when making this decision or other decisions affecting custody.
How will a judge decide whether the relocation can go ahead?
In such cases, the Maine courts prioritize the best interests of the child. A relocation more than 60 miles away is presumed by the courts to disrupt the child’s relationship with the other parent, which may not be in their best interests.
The burden lies with the relocating parent to prove that the move is best for the child — or the judge will deny the request. A broad range of factors will be considered in making this decision, such as:
- The child’s age
- The child’s relationship with each parent and with any other people who may significantly affect the child
- The child’s preference (if old enough to express a rational opinion)
- The duration and adequacy of the child’s current living arrangements and the desirability of maintaining those arrangements
- The stability of any proposed living arrangement for the child
- The motivation of each parent
- Each parent’s capacity to give the child love, affection, and guidance
- How well the child is adjusted to the present home, school, and community
- Each parent’s capacity to allow and encourage frequent and continuing contact between the child and the other parent
- Each parent’s capacity to cooperate or learn to cooperate in childcare
- Whether each parent has methods for assisting parental cooperation and resolving disputes, and their willingness to use these methods
- The effect on the child if one parent has sole authority over the child’s upbringing
- Whether there is a history of domestic abuse and whether this affects the child’s emotional health and safety
- Whether there is a history of a parent abusing the child
- Whether a parent has been convicted of a sex offense or a sexually violent offense
- Whether the child is being breastfed (if under one year of age)
Ultimately, any other factor that affects the child’s physical and psychological well-being will also be taken into account before a judge makes a ruling on a potential relocation.
Unless there is a substantial change of circumstances, the existing child custody order will apply and will be expected to be carried out to the letter by the parents.
If a substantial change can be demonstrated, the judge can consider the application for relocation and a hearing may be held to consider the case if the other parent does not consent to the relocation. This may result in a trial and a new court order being issued.
How do the Maine courts typically decide relocation cases?
In one important case that went to an appeal in the high court, an application to relocate with the child was deemed not to be in the best interests of the children:
- A divorced couple shared physical custody of their children.
- The children spent most of their time living with their mother.
- Soon after the divorce, the mother remarried and planned a move to Oregon.
- She filed the required notice and a trial ensued.
- The judge ordered that if the mother remained at her residence in Maine, she could retain custody of the children but if she moved to Oregon, custody would transfer to the father.
- The mother appealed but the high court approved the trial court’s decision, noting that moving to Oregon was not in the children’s best interests due to the disruption that it would have entailed and the father’s parenting and communication abilities.
Every relocation case is different and will be treated on its own merits by the Maine courts. There is no “typical” situation but the best interests of the children will be the standard used in every case.
The golden rule is not to move away with your children without the consent of your ex-spouse or a court order. Speak to a Maine child custody lawyer beforehand if you are in any doubt about this potentially serious matter.
In the most extreme cases, parental rights and responsibilities can be transferred to the non-moving parent if the relocating parent fails to follow the correct protocols before moving.
Do You Need to Relocate After a Divorce Involving Children?
As with many other post-divorce issues, you should always consult with a knowledgeable lawyer before taking steps towards relocating with your child after a divorce. It is more important than ever that you are aware of your rights and responsibilities at this time.
Attorneys from The Maine Divorce Group can help you with the proper legal steps you need to take in order to relocate with your child. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our well-versed attorneys.
Call 207-230-6597 or contact us online to schedule a consult with one of our highly skilled family law attorneys today.
We serve many clients, just like you, across Maine in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, & Lincoln Counties.
Contact The Maine Divorce Group today
HOW CAN THE MAINE GROUP DIVORCE HELP?
Divorce is a highly emotional and stressful experience for most people. But you don’t have to face this challenge alone. Having a strong divorce attorney in your corner can help ensure that you and your children walk away from this process with the best opportunities available for future success and happiness.