So, you have been to court, and you now have a visitation order. You finally have set in stone a schedule, and your time with the child is no longer at the mercy of the other parent. But, out of the blue, you learn the other parent is planning to take the kids and move across the county. What do you do?
The Relocation Statute
In Oklahoma, we have a relocation statute, 43 O.S. § 112.3. While I won’t go so far as to say that there is protection from a move, there is at least a procedure that must be followed, and you have the right to object and request a hearing.
If a parent wants to move more than seventy file miles, that parent must provide written notice. That written notice must provide the following information:
- the intended new residence, including the specific address, if known,
- the mailing address, if not the same,
- the home telephone number, if known,
- the date of the intended move or proposed relocation,
- a brief statement of the specific reasons for the proposed relocation of a child, if applicable,
- a proposal for a revised schedule of visitation with the child, if any, and
- a warning to the non-relocating parent that an objection to the relocation must be made within thirty (30) days, or the relocation will be permitted
You Must File an Objection
If you receive a relocation notice, it is critical that you file your written objection and request a hearing within the allowed time. A failure to timely object can allow the other parent to move without further notice. Don’t wait until the last minute to act. As soon as you receive a relocation notice contact an attorney.
I Filed an Objection, Now What?
Assuming you have hired an attorney and properly objected, the court will conduct a hearing. At the hearing, the court will consider the following factors:
- the nature, quality, the extent of involvement, and duration of the child’s relationship with the person proposing to relocate and with the non-relocating person, siblings, and other significant persons in the child’s life,
- the age, developmental stage, needs of the child, and the likely impact the relocation will have on the child’s physical, educational, and emotional development, taking into consideration any special needs of the child,
- the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the non-relocating person and the child through suitable visitation arrangements, considering the logistics and financial circumstances of the parties,
- the child’s preference, taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child,
- whether there is an established pattern of conduct of the person seeking the relocation, either to promote or thwart the relationship of the child and the non-relocating person,
- whether the relocation of the child will enhance the general quality of life for both the custodial party seeking the relocation and the child, including but not limited to financial or emotional benefit or educational opportunity,
- the reasons of each person for seeking or opposing the relocation, and
- any other factor affecting the best interest of the child.
The relocating person has the burden of proof that the proposed relocation is made in good faith. If that burden of proof is met, the burden shifts to the nonrelocating person to show that the proposed relocation is not in the best interest of the child.
What if I Have Custody and I want to Relocate?
As explained above, the proper procedure must be followed. A failure to follow the proper procedure can result in a failed relocation case. If you have custody and would like to relocate, consult with an attorney BEFORE making a final decision to relocate. Proper planning and strategy on the front end may limit the potential of a train wreck later. My opinion is that relocations were easier years ago. I think it is harder now to relocate than it used to be. However, it always boils down to the specific facts of the case.
If you are the relocating parent make sure you follow the proper procedure. Relocation language is included in every Oklahoma Custody order. If you are the parent receiving the notice, make sure you file an objection. However, you should never attempt either of these things without first hiring an attorney. As with all things legal, it’s never as simple as filling out the magic form. The paper in the court file is only about 10% of what’s involved in presenting a case. The other 90% is knowing how to properly prepare, organize, and argue the case in court.