It's common for a divorced parent to relocate, but this can create problems for the other parent, including decreased parenting time and increased visitation costs. In Oklahoma, custodial parents who want to move more than 75 miles with their minor children must give specific notice to the other parent. If the non-moving parent objects to the relocation, the court will hold a hearing to determine if the move is in the child's best interests.
Oklahoma law presumes that custodial parents have a right to relocate with their minor children, unless the children's welfare is at risk. This doesn't mean that the custodial parent has the right to move whenever they want, which is why the non-custodial parent has the right to object to a proposed move.
A custodial parent is free to relocate with the minor child without court approval if it's less than 75 miles from the child's current residence for a period of less than 60 days. If a parent wants to move further or for a longer period of time, they need to give notice to the other parent, and the notice must meet specific requirements.
The custodial parent must send a written notice to the other parent's last-known address no later than 60 days before the date of the proposed move. If sending notice this far in advance isn't possible, custodial parents should send notice as soon as they reasonably can, but no less than 10 days after they have determined that a move is necessary.
Unless the court has given the custodial parent permission to restrict personal information from the non-custodial parent (which can happen in some instances of domestic violence), the notice must contain the following information:
If the notice doesn't meet the above requirements, the court may deny the relocation. If the notice is acceptable, and the other parent doesn't file an objection, the moving parent can relocate after 30 days. The court can grant the relocation without a hearing, so it's important for a non-custodial parent to file an objection within 30 days. The objection should include the reasons why it is not in the child's best interest to move.
To start, a court will want to make sure that the moving parent has good faith reasons for the proposed relocation, such as a promotion, better educational opportunities for the children, and/or moving closer to immediate family.
If the parent is trying to relocate to make it more difficult for the non-custodial parent to see the child, or for any other bad faith reasons, the court will deny the relocation. For example, in a 2009 case, a mother and father shared joint custody of their children. In the past, the father gave mother 2 days' notice that he was relocating with the children. The mother didn't object because she could maintain her visitation despite it being a 25-mile distance between the residences. A few years later, the father provided a 7-day notice that he was relocating the minor children a second time. The mother filed an objection, and the court decided that the father failed to provide sufficient notice of the proposed move and that he was relocating in bad faith. As a result, the court denied the father's request to move and granted the mother sole custody of the children.
If the court believes the parent is requesting a move in good faith, the non-custodial parent's job will be to prove that the relocation is not in the child's best interest. In making this decision, the court will evaluate relocation factors, which include:
At the hearing, the objecting parent must use the above factors to prove that it's not in the child's best interest to move. Additionally, the non-moving parent needs to show the court that the custodial parent is unfit and that there is a risk of real and specific harm to the child while living in the new location.
Relocation cases are complicated. Not only do these situations involve changing residences and visitation schedules, you may also need to address modification of custody, which is difficult. If you want to relocate, or you object to a move, you should seek assistance from an experienced family law attorney.