Your life had settled into a normal routine. The judge had awarded child custody to you in your Charleston divorce case. Everything was going well.
Now, all of that is about to change.
You need to move.
You want to know: “How will my move affect child custody?
South Carolina Child Custody Law Makes It Difficult for a Divorced Parent to Move with a Child.
Moving with your child after divorce can be complicated, particularly if the other parent is remaining in Charleston. You cannot just pick up and leave town with your child. You must obtain permission from the Charleston divorce court before you can move with your child.
Your Charleston child custody judge cannot prevent you from moving if you do not take your child with you. However, if you have custody of your child, your judge can stop you from moving to another city or state with your child.
If you do not have custody of your child, South Carolina’s child custody law permits you to fight any move that would affect your visitation with your child.
Charleston Judges Will Usually Allow You to Move within South Carolina with Your Child.
South Carolina’s child custody law treats moves within the state differently from moves outside South Carolina. The relevant South Carolina statute severely limits the ability of your child custody judge to prevent you from moving within South Carolina after your divorce becomes final.
For example, if you want to move with your child from Mount Pleasant to West Ashley or Summerville, your Charleston child custody judge cannot prohibit you from moving unless: (a) there is a “compelling reason” to stop you; or (b) you agreed previously with your spouse not to move. If you want to move with your child from Mount Pleasant to a more distant location within South Carolina, your child custody judge may modify your parenting plan to change the child visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent. Your child custody judge may also require you to pay for a significant portion of the additional cost of transporting your child to and from Mount Pleasant for the child visitation.
Moving with Your Child Outside of South Carolina Is Complicated.
South Carolina’s child custody law permits Charleston judges to deny a request by a custodial parent to move to another state with a child. You will probably need the assistance of an experienced Charleston child custody lawyer to have a reasonably good chance of prevailing on your motion to move with your child from Charleston to another state.
Many parents have many good reasons for wanting to move from Charleston to a city in another state. Many need to move for a job. Others need to care for an ailing parent or other relative. Some seek to relocate because they have remarried and their spouses have been transferred to other states. However, having a “good” reason for moving to another state does not guaranty that you will be able to move from South Carolina with your child.
If your former spouse does not agree to your request to relocate with your child to another state, you must prepare for a lengthy, complex court battle. You should not expect a quick decision from your child custody judge. Relocation cases are seldom handled on an expedited basis. From start to finish, the process may require several months.
Charleston child custody judges frequently deny requests from custodial parents to relocate. The judges realize that removal of a child from South Carolina will substantially affect the relationship between the child and the noncustodial parent. Charleston child custody judges also understand that the noncustodial parent will not be able to enjoy frequent child visitation if the child moves outside of South Carolina.
The Custodial Parent Must Prove that the Out of State Move Is in the Best Interests of the Child.
In the Charleston courtroom, your child custody judge will want you to answer four questions:
(1) What are the potential advantages of the proposed move?
(2) How likely is it that your proposed move will improve the quality of life for you and your child?
(3) What are your real motives for requesting to move with your child?
(4) What alternative child visitation arrangements can be made to continue to foster the relationship between your child and the noncustodial parent?
Presenting your answers to these seemingly simple questions will probably require many hours (if not days) of trial time. To prevail, you will need to present compelling evidence from multiple witnesses. You may even need to present expert testimony on one or more issues.
Charleston child custody judges frequently deny requests from custodial parents to relocate.
You should anticipate that your former spouse will vigorously oppose your request to move with the child. Most noncustodial parents become very upset when they learn that their child may be moving to another state. Many noncustodial mothers and fathers hire talented Charleston child custody attorneys because they are facing the prospect of “losing” their child. They know that they need professional help to defeat a relocation motion.
Protecting Your Parental Rights to Child Custody and Visitation
No one can predict with certainty how a Charleston child custody judge may rule on your relocation motion. Each child relocation case is different and depends on the particular circumstances of each parent and the child.
If you do not hire an experienced Charleston child custody attorney, you will need to have specialized knowledge of South Carolina child custody law to have a good likelihood of obtaining permission to move out of state with your child after your divorce. At a minimum, you should not attempt to obtain permission to move out of state unless you have consulted with an experienced Charleston child custody attorney and mastered the underlying legal principles.
If you are considering a move to another state with your child or if your former spouse intends to move with your child, please call me now at 843-631-7117. Alternatively, please use the contact form to ask me any questions that you may have regarding your mother’s rights or father’s rights. I can help you.
Working together, we will protect your parental rights and build a better future for you and your child in Awendaw, Charleston, Daniel Island, Goose Creek, Isle of Palms, James Island, Johns Island, Kiawah, Mount Pleasant, North Charleston, Sullivan’s Island, Summerville, or West Ashley.
Recommendations for Additional Reading