Relocation as it Pertains to Custody Cases in SC

Relocation as it Pertains to Custody Cases in SC

By M. J. Goodwin

 

As a general rule, children are best served being raised by two involved parents. This fact makes relocation of the custodial parent following litigation a difficult situation. Any move that results in a diminished amount of regular face to face, physical contact with the non-custodial parent may impact the children’s well being. The Family Court cannot prevent a person from moving. However, the Family Court may issue an Order that prevents the child from being moved. Such an order usually effectively stops the relocation, as the parent desiring to relocate will re-evaluate that plan upon their realization that a loss of custody will result.

The case that controls issues of relocation in South Carolina is Latimer v. Farmer, 602 S. E.2d 32 (S. C. 2004). Latimer requires that the following questions be considered by the Family Court in the context of relocation cases:

  1. What are the parents’ motives for and against the relocations? For example, is the relocation carefully considered, or is it being done on a whim? My experience tells me that the Court will typically not be as concerned with moves that are motivated by a career improvement, or military service, but will be very concerned about a move to live with a new paramour recently found on Facebook. Common sense comes into play here.
  2. What is the quality of the relationship between the child and each of the child’s parents? A very active non-custodial parent has a better chance of preventing a child’s relocation than does a non-custodial parent who never exercises visitation.
  3. The impact of the move on the quality of the visiting parent’s and the child’s relationship. Again, the more active a non-custodial parent has been, the better off he or she will be in this area. Regular lunches at school, attendance at sporting events, making sure you make that mid-week dinner date, all play into this factor.
  4. The feasibility of preserving the relationship of the visiting parent and the child if the move is allowed. We live in a digital age. If you only talk to your child on the phone and text your child, such a relationship can be maintained regardless of distance. Skype and Face Time are often ordered in long distance cases. Long distance cases typically get greater amounts of time during school breaks. Sometimes this is feasible, but sometimes it creates child care issues for the non-custodial parent who has to work during the summer months. Creativity on the part of the lawyers and the litigants in this area is crucial.
  5. The economic, emotional and educational impact of the move. A move that will arguable increase a child’s standard of living and educational opportunities is more likely to be allowed than a move that will not. The travel costs associated with visitation will also be an issue.
  6. The general advantages and disadvantages of the relocation. If a custodial parent is moving back to where the custodial parent’s family is located, that is an advantage. A move that is simply to “start over” may not be viewed in the same way. A move that involves an unknown person from the past or from the internet will likely be viewed with suspicion.

The key to keeping one’s child close seems to be just that: keeping one’s child close. A non-custodial parent who is very active in the child’s life, with daily phone contact, regular school contact, involvement in medical appointments, attendance and even coaching at sporting events, religious involvement and any other involvement one can imagine, will have a much better chance at preventing a child’s moving away. An uninvolved non-custodial parent has little to complain about when the custodial parent seeks to take that dream job in Seattle.

If relocation is an issue for your child, contact an experienced Family Court attorney. M. J. Goodwin has 23 years of experience in South Carolina Family Court. Email inquiries are typically answered within 12 hours. Contact her at: mj@mjgoodwin.com

 

 

 

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