• Blog >
  • How Do the Courts Address Parental Relocation?

How Do the Courts Address Parental Relocation?

Child custody cases often involve issues that the parents do not agree on. As the case comes to a resolution, the parents will either negotiate an agreement through their attorneys or – if they are unable to come to an agreeable solution – the family court judge presiding over the case will decide.

One issue that often ends up in front of the court is when one parent makes the decision to move out of state. Many parents considering such a move will be concerned not only about the usual stresses involved with moving, but also the legal uncertainties of wondering whether their current parental rights will be altered in a new jurisdiction.


Rhode Island, along with 48 other states (the lone exception being Massachusetts), has passed legislation known as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. This piece of model legislation created by the American Law Institute ensures that child custody orders in one state are generally enforceable in almost any other state.

The legislation has provisions for emergency enforcement in the event that one parent removes the child from the home state in violation of a court order for purposes of depriving the other parent of custody or visitation. But the bulk of the text consists of provisions for transferring venue and jurisdiction to a new home state when the move is undertaken for lawful reasons.

Generally, when a custodial parent seeks to leave a state, they are required to file a request for a venue transfer. In considering this request, courts will permit other interested parties (non-custodial parents and sometimes other family members) to raise objections to the move and hold a hearing to decide whether the proposed move requires a modification of the current custody order.

Best Interest of the Child

As in any custody matter, the ultimate issue the court considers is what custody and visitation arrangement is in the best interest of the child. This determination considers another set of factors generally. However, for purposes of a move out of state, this inquiry focuses on factors such as:

  • Potential for disruption in the child’s family, school, and social life;
  • Potential for damage to the child’s relationship with the other parent; and
  • The parent’s reasons for the move. Reasons such as remarriage, new employment, or improved economic circumstances are generally viewed favorably. Reasons that strike the court as vague or pretextual are not viewed favorably.

Every case is different, and in most circumstances, if the custodial parent seeking to move shows good faith reasons for moving and is not simply trying to harm the child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent, the court will likely allow the move and order a transfer of venue without any modification to the existing order.

However, in some cases, courts will require custody orders to be modified as a condition of the move in order to protect the visitation rights of the non-custodial parent. When the non-custodial parent is the one seeking to move, the question focuses on whether the parent can take the child out of state for visits, or whether the visitation schedule and logistics should be modified to account for the changed circumstances.

 Contact a Rhode Island Family Law Attorney

Whether you are considering moving out of state or whether you recently moved here from another state, it is imperative that you seek out the advice of experienced family law attorneys to ensure that your parental rights are protected. Regardless of whether you are the custodial parent seeking to retain full custody after the move, or whether you are the non-custodial parent seeking to retain your visitation rights, it is a mistake to try to weather the complex jurisdictional and legal issues that arise when you relocate to a new state.

Call Kirshenbaum Law Associates at 401-467-5300 to schedule a confidential consultation with one of our skilled Rhode Island divorce attorneys. We will evaluate your case and help you decide the best way to proceed.