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What happens if you live in Utah, are divorced, have children and want to move? The good news is, it’s possible. The bad news is, it’s complicated.
If you’re looking at a situation where you’re wanting to move, the first step is to thoroughly evaluate the reason for the move. There needs to be what we call “reasonable grounds” in order for you to up and move away from the father or mother of your children. For example, a new employment opportunity that’s important to your career and will increase your financial ability to provide for your family, is a legitimate basis for a move. Alternatively, moving for a new relationship is potentially not going to be a good enough reason.
The next thing you need to do is give the other party notice. Utah code requires 60 day written notice. Then, best case scenario, discuss the move with your ex to see if you can come up with an arrangement that works for everyone. Agreement should include a new parent-time schedule, shared costs of travel for the children, etc. Once you’ve worked everything out, it can be as simple as filing the Stipulated Agreement with the Court, followed by a Modified Divorce Decree reflecting the changes.
Alternatively, if your ex is not in agreement, your next step is to turn to your Divorce Decree to see how the decree contemplates a move. Many decrees follow Utah Code which states a move of 150 miles or more triggers relocation. Look to your decree and follow it.
For our clients, we always include specific parameters upfront around what parties will do if a relocation occurs because in practical, everyday life, a move as short as 50 miles can have a significant impact. This extra step simply helps avoid undue confusion and cost later.
Decrees also generally include a mediation requirement where parties are to mediate in the event an agreement around relocation can’t be reached. Again, look to your decree and follow it.
If mediation is unsuccessful, the next step is to motion the court for a Relocation Hearing. (Note if mediation is not contemplated in your decree, this step occurs after notice is given and no agreement reached.) Parties will present all information and the court make a decision. Remember the court always considers what is in the best interest of the children and has a list of factors it evaluates during the hearing.
Now, two things can happen once the court has fully evaluated. Court may grant relocation or it can find that the move is not in the best interest of the children. If denied and parent seeking relocation still decides to move, know that if you were custodial parent, you could lose custody and become non-custodial parent. During the hearing, the court will also order a new parenting schedule and outline who will bear the costs associated with travel for children.
Ultimately, leaving the jurisdiction and relocating away from your children’s mother or father is a big deal. But we (and the law) understand that life happens and situations change. If you find yourself in a relocation situation, it’s a lot easier, and you’ll have better standing with the court, if you take the necessary steps to do it right.
Link to Utah Relocation Statute: https://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title30/Chapter3/30-3-S37.html
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JR Law Group is a Salt Lake City and Park City Utah based firm specializing in Divorce and Family Law. To schedule a consultation or find out more, please contact us: (801) 297-8545
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