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Can you stop your former spouse from moving with your children?

Your relationships with your children can help them recover from the stress of divorce. In most cases, children of divorce fare best when they can keep up healthy relationships with both parents. Those parents don’t have to live together, but it often helps if they live within a short distance of each other.

Studies have found that children whose divorced parents moved more than an hour apart from each other were more likely to suffer from emotional and physical distress than children whose parents lived closer together. In addition, children often grow more distant from their parents when they lose daily contact. So what can you do if your former spouse plans to move the children away from you?

Pennsylvania law allows you to challenge a relocation

According to Pennsylvania law, one divorced parent cannot simply move the children away from the other. That parent must first send notice by certified mail—at least 60 days before the intended move. The notice needs to include the address to which the parent plans to move, as well as the names of everyone who will live at that address, a telephone number, the names of the school and school district, and the reason for the move.

If you receive such a notice and agree to the move, you can sign, and your former spouse can move. But if you object, you can file your objection with the court. You and your former spouse could try to resolve your differences through mediation. Otherwise, you could find yourselves back in the courtroom.

As in the original custody evaluation, the court will look at different factors to decide the best interests of the children. These may include:

  • The quality of the relationships the children have with each parent
  • The move’s likely impact on the children’s physical, emotional and educational growth
  • The ability of the relocating parent to encourage the children’s relationship with the other parent
  • Whether either parent has tried to block the children from having a relationship with the other
  • What financial benefits the move may offer the children
  • The children’s wishes—depending on their age and level of maturity

The court can then choose to allow the move or block it. If it chooses, it can even issue a wholesale modification of the existing custody order.

Your research matters

If you find yourself in a position where you need to argue against a relocation, you want to speak the court’s language.As much as possible, the court will want to base its decision off facts, so you might want to research the new address, city, neighborhood and school. It’s even possible that information about your former spouse’s likely tenure at the new job may make a difference. If you want to stay in close contact—and believe it’s truly in your children’s best interest—you’ll want to use every piece of information you can to make your case as strong as possible.

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