Child custody and parenting time are frequent areas of conflict. One of the most difficult issues is when one custodial parent wants to relocate out of Connecticut with the child. Connecticut courts apply different standards for deciding if relocation will be permitted depending on whether the request is made during or after divorce. Relocation during the divorce process has a lower standard of proof than after divorce, but in both cases, the Court will closely analyze the specific facts and circumstances.
Relocation During the Divorce
Courts decide whether to allow relocation using a “best interest of the child” test. Sixteen factors are considered, including the child’s needs, each parent’s relationship with the child, continuity, stability in the child’s environment, and other factors. Note that the Court is not required to assign any particular weight to any of the factors it considers.
Relocation After Divorce
When relocation is requested after the divorce is finalized, the Court requires additional evidence regarding the need for relocation and how it may affect the parent-child relationship before deciding. The parent seeking relocation has the burden of proving that relocation is for a legitimate purpose, the location is reasonable in light of that purpose, and that the relocation is in the child’s best interest.
In determining relocation, the Court will also look at the reasons each parent is proposing or opposing the relocation and the degree to which the relocating parent’s and the child’s life may be enhanced economically, emotionally, and educationally by the relocation.
Importantly, the Court must consider the impact of the relocation on the relationship between the child and the nonrelocating parent and the feasibility of preserving the relationship through suitable visitation arrangements. Accordingly, the parent seeking to relocate must show that the quality and quantity of parenting time that existed before relocation can be preserved after moving or that other factors outweigh this one. This is typically done by allowing for longer blocks of visitation for the noncustodial parent, such as long weekends and more holidays and summer vacation time. The ability of the parent and child to communicate using a video platform is relevant but not a replacement for in-person time.
In addition, the nonrelocating parent’s ability to move to a new location is also a factor. Relocation is more likely to be granted where the nonrelocating parent can telecommute and work from anywhere. However, the Court will also consider the parent’s family, business, and other connections.
Resolving Disputes Over Relocation
Ultimately, a Connecticut court will look at all the facts and circumstances in resolving a relocation dispute. It is not unusual for many of these cases to go to litigation because negotiation and settlement are challenging. Unlike other parenting time disputes, there is not an easy compromise. The custodial parent either gets to move to a new location or not. However, parents can be flexible and creative concerning parenting time schedules to compensate for the lack of in-person visitation.
If you or your co-parent is relocating, contact us for a consultation. Our child custody attorneys can help protect your rights and your relationship with your child.