Child Custody and Relocation in Oklahoma

Learn more about what you need to do if you want to relocate with your minor child.

By , Attorney · Cooley Law School
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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.

What Constitutes a Relocation?

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:

  • the intended new address, including the mailing address
  • the home telephone number
  • the date of the intended move
  • a brief statement of the specific reasons for the relocation of the child
  • a proposal for a revised schedule of visitation with the child and non-custodial parent, and
  • a warning to the non-custodial parent that they must file an objection to the relocation notice within 30 days, or the court will allow the parent to move with the children.

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.

What Does the Court Consider During a Relocation Hearing?

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:

  • the nature, quality, extent of involvement, and duration of the child's relationship with the both parents, siblings, and other significant people in the child's life
  • the age, developmental stage, needs of the child, and the likely impact the relocation will have on the child's physical, educational, and emotional development, taking into consideration any special needs of the child
  • the feasibility (likelihood) of preserving the relationship between the non-moving parent and the child through suitable visitation arrangements, considering logistics and the parents' financial circumstances
  • the child's preference, taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child
  • whether there's an established pattern of conduct of the person seeking the relocation, either to promote or hurt the relationship for the child and the non-relocating parent
  • whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for both the moving parent and the child, including financial or emotional benefits, or educational opportunities
  • each parent's reasons for seeking or opposing the relocation, and
  • any other factor affecting the best interest of the child.

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.

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