Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Guest Post by Jennifer Smith: What To Do When One Parent Wants to Move Out of State

What To Do When One Parent Wants to Move Out of State

It’s not entirely uncommon for spouses to relocate across state lines after a divorce. After a divorce is finalized, a spouse may no longer wish to reside in that state – far removed from their friends and family. Whatever the reason, this situation gets sticky when there are children involved.

It’s important that both parents are allowed to maintain a relationship with their child, even if they’re not living under the same roof. This relationship becomes even more complicated when there are state lines dividing the family. Parents are urged to work together for the sake of their child, in order to make this situation work.  

Filing for Custody and Child Support

Parents are urged to file in court, before relocating, because it’s easier. When divorce, custody and visitation issues are handled in one jurisdiction, there’s less to be confused about. If parents are amicable about separating, they ought to submit their pleas to the court they both currently reside in.

When two courts are involved in a legal dispute, the dispute can take a lot longer. Not to mention, child support enforcement and custody laws vary state-to-state. The Arizona Department of Economic Security writes:

“When parents live in two different states or countries, cases are often more complex and the timeframes associated with case processing are often longer than when both parents live in the same state. In some cases, the law allows Arizona to act as though both parents live in-state. In other cases the Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) must request help from the other state to establish paternity and/or support or to enforce a child support order.  The case then becomes an intergovernmental case.”


If both parents agree a relationship with the child is important, visitation can be worked out amicably. The court may schedule a legal guardian for the child, in order to hear the child’s requests. The court may also apply a mediator to the case, a person who is in charge of helping all parties involved come to a reasonable agreement.

Unfortunately, moving across state lines may mean one parent sees the child less often than they would if the child resided in the same city. This parent will likely have extended visitation over holidays and summer vacation, when the child isn’t in school.

In order for visitation to work out amicably, parents must be willing to put aside their differences and be flexible with one another. Holidays may need to be alternated, so one parent can’t expect to have their child every single Christmas, Thanksgiving or birthday.

Fewer issues will arise when parents are flexible and accommodating. Sometimes, there will be legitimate reasons for a child to visit or stay home. Both parents need to be willing to communicate with positivity.  


Until a child meets the age requirement for flying alone, parents must travel with their kids. Airfare can be expensive, so this cost must be factored into the child support agreement. Both parents should agree on the costs related to travel and how they plan to pay for them. If a joint account is opened for the child to pay for travel fees and other expenses, it’s important that both parents understand their responsibilities to the account and work together to pay the bank fees and interest. 

Because airfare is so expensive, parents are encouraged to search online for a credit card that earns the traveler bonus airline miles and other travel-related rewards. The best airline credit cards can be found by reading sites like this. Plus, the bill can be conveniently split, if the agreement calls for travel expenses to be split equally.

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