Let’s say that you have always wanted to be a veterinarian. Finally, you were accepted to a veterinary school in Texas. You live in North Carolina. You applied to N.C. State, but you didn’t get in.
You have a little boy who is six years old. You share custody of him with your ex-husband. The two of you have a child custody order that outlines a week-on/week-off schedule.
The current custody arrangement will be impossible if you move to Texas for school. But this is your dream. And you can’t leave your son behind. Won’t a judge see that making this move with your son is the best thing for everyone involved? Your ex has a good income. He can afford to visit regularly. You can also contribute to travel expenses. Of course the court will allow you to move with your son, right?
In most cases, furthering your education is a terrific goal. However, when children are involved, moving for a parent’s education complicates matters. There is a tough balance to strike between improving the family’s overall long-term financial position and suffering the immediate effects on the parent-child relationship.
As we have discussed in every chapter, there are many factors to consider when a parent wants or needs to move.
In the long run, a move to further one parent’s education usually benefits the entire family, since more education typically means higher income. But on the front end, it can be hard to see how the move would benefit the children, since they would be displaced from their current life.
The goal is to show the court how the move will benefit the children.
Let’s Take a Step Back
Consider the following questions:
- Is the move permanent or simply for the period you’ll be attending school? How long will school take?
- How much will your education affect the children? For example, how will you arrange for child care when you are in school?
- Did you consider and/or apply to schools close to your current location?
- What type of travel arrangements will you need to facilitate visitation?
- After your education is complete, will you move back to where you live now, stay where you got your education, or apply to jobs in other cities?
- Will the education truly provide long-term benefits, or is this simply an impulse decision because you need a change?
- What is the financial impact of not furthering your education? What would happen if you maintained your current employment or income instead?
If you determine the move is necessary to further your station in life, then you need to start crafting your reasons and lining up your proof about how the move will benefit your child. Consider the schools, extracurricular activities, and so forth for your new location. How do those opportunities compare with your child’s current life?
Again, a big deciding factor may well be the current custodial arrangement. The less time the other parent spends with the children, the more the odds favor your move. If the other parent spends significant time with the children now, it usually makes the decision more difficult. Judges do not like to reduce contact with an involved parent who will be left behind in the current state.
When going to school requires you to move far away from the other parent, you will want to consider all of your options. Of all of the reasons to move a child away from the other parent, this is most likely the least persuasive one. Why, you ask? Because, on its face, the move will always appear to be for your benefit, not the child’s. So, you will need to truly assess how you can build and present a case to show how the move will benefit your child as well.
You’ll need to carefully review the particular facts surrounding your educational opportunity with your attorney so that together you can determine your best course of action.