If you’re a recently divorced parent, you might feel the need to move away before you can move on. The months and years after a divorce can be taxing, even if your split was amicable, and relocation might seem like the next logical step. Whatever your reasoning, make sure you have the court’s permission to move. As the custodial parent, you could suffer legal repercussions if you fail to observe Oregon’s child custody laws.
Child custody laws are generally intended to reflect the child’s best interest in the case of a divorce, and the Oregon legal system is no different. When deciding which parent should have sole legal and physical custody, the judge must consider the parent’s lifestyle, financial situation, relationship with the child, level of involvement in the child’s care, and other qualifications that affect the child’s quality of life. In other words, the judge must determine which parent will foster the strongest bond with the child and provide him or her with the highest standard of care.
The same rationale applies in matters of relocation. Oregon law tends to prioritize the child’s continued relationship with both parents. If you, as the custodial parent, have lived in close proximity to the noncustodial parent and shared regular parenting time with him or her, you must be mindful of the legal process before deciding to relocate.
Most of the time, you may relocate within Oregon up to 60 miles away from the noncustodial parent without providing any kind of prior notice. If you are planning to move more than 60 miles away or outside of the state, it is your duty as the custodial parent to notify the other parent and the court in writing. Either way, make sure you comply with any existing court order that outlines parenting time between the two of you.
It’s a good idea to consult with an attorney before you have a conversation with the noncustodial parent about your plans to relocate. The move may require you to renegotiate your current parenting time plan, and it is usually best to try and reach a mutual agreement. If the noncustodial parent is opposed to the move, he or she can file a petition in court to stop you from leaving; you can do the same, asking the judge to allow the relocation via a court petition. Either parent may also file a motion to change custody or to adjust the parenting time plan in light of the relocation. Because relocation can impact either parent’s ability to care for the child, the judge will have to reevaluate your situation.
Once again, the judge will weigh the pros and cons of your move as it relates to your child’s well-being. You must have an adequate reason for relocation, which could include career advancement, remarriage, or proximity to extended family. The move generally should have minimal impact on the child’s relationship with the noncustodial parent, and it should improve the child’s quality of life.
The judge can make one of three decisions in the end. You may be allowed to relocate with your child, in which case you will likely have to modify the parenting time schedule. If the child is better off at his or her current residence, the judge may order you to remain in Oregon. In some cases you will be allowed to move, but custody will be changed to the other parent.
It’s best to avoid making hasty decisions. If you move without the court’s permission, you may face criminal prosecution. In other cases you will simply be ordered to move back, which may result in a loss of custody or parenting time with your child.
Custody and relocation laws may seem strict, but they will always favor the child’s well-being over the parent’s interests. A family law attorney will be better equipped to present your case to the court and demonstrate why the child’s best interest aligns with your decision to relocate. At Landerholm Law, we understand that the legal process can be overwhelming, especially when you are juggling stressful personal matters with parenting and day-to-day life. Give us a call before you take any action. We’ll navigate the Oregon legal system on your behalf and help you secure the best possible outcome for you and your child.