In divorce and other custody cases, there is a risk that circumstances will change after the court has made a final decision. Some changes will have little effect on the court’s order. But other changes have a large effect and can be difficult to work out. One change that could have a large impact on a custody order is the decision of a parent to move far away from the other parent. It is difficult to do weekend visitation if one parent lives in Utah and another parent lives in California.

If you or the other parent are planning or have carried out a long-distance move, check your custody order. Sometimes, there are already orders in place anticipating such a move. Also, check Utah Code § 30-3- 37, the relocation statute, to see how it applies to you. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Long-Distance Relocation Can Result in a Change of Custody

If one parent is displeased with the relocation, custody might change. A parent can request a court hearing when the other parent moves 150+ miles away or is planning to move. If the court decides that it is not in the best interest of the children to move, the court can order custody to change if the parent moves or has moved.

If You Have Custody and Want to Move, Do It Right

Utah Code § 30-3- 37 imposes a duty on the parent who is moving to give the other parent written, advance notice. If you are planning to move, let the other parent know 60 days in advance. Admittedly, this will give the other parent advance warning. And, the other parent might request a hearing. But, consider what happens if you move without giving advance notice to the other parent:

The other parent will be more likely to want a hearing and will get one anyway. You will then have to travel back for the hearing. You will then have to explain why you should not be held in contempt for failing to give notice. You will also have to explain why you should keep custody after sneaking away with the children. And then, there is a chance the court will conclude that custody should change if you move. If you have already moved, this decision will place you in a very awkward and inconvenient position.

Thus, if you are contemplating a long-distance move, give the notice and be well prepared for the hearing. An attorney can help with the notice, but it is possible to do it alone and even advisable if you expect no trouble from the other parent. If the other parent requests a hearing and you do not already have an attorney, you should strongly consider hiring one as far in advance as possible. At such hearings, custody can change. You do not want to risk going to such a hearing unprepared.

If You Do Not Have Custody, You Might Be Able to Get Custody if the Other Parent Moves Long-Distance

If the custodial parent is moving far away, you can request a hearing. The court will, at minimum, make orders regarding how parent time is supposed to work long-distance. But, it may be that the court can be convinced that a change of custody would be appropriate. The relocation and attendant circumstances could be the grain of rice that tips the scales in your favor. Alternatively, the relocation destination could pose serious threats to the wellbeing of your children. If the court concludes that relocation is not in the best interest of the children, it can order that relocation will result in change of custody.

If you find yourself dissatisfied or concerned about the other parent moving with the children, consider consulting an attorney about your options and the possibility of requesting a hearing.