Can I relocate with my child after my divorce?

Can I relocate with my child after my divorce?

In Wisconsin, parents who have custody orders cannot leave the state (permanently) with their children. More so, Wisconsin law narrows the relocation distance to 100 miles before one must involve the court. This holds true even if you are the parent with primary placement.  In any case, the other parent, having established parental rights as well, would likely object to the relocation.

If you find yourself having to relocate, however, you have come to the right place.  Relocating, which is typically unplanned, is commonly the result of circumstances not under one’s control, such as job relocation or the desire to move closer to family.  Whatever the reason may be, the Wisconsin statutes have outlined the process and procedure that must be followed for relocation, which can be found by clicking here.  I will brief you below on the statute.

How does the process of relocating work in Wisconsin?

In order to relocate with your child farther than 100 miles from the other parent, you must file a motion seeking court permission for this action. The motion must contain specific criteria found under 767.481(1)(b) of the Wisconsin Statutes.  The criteria include:

  1. A relocation plan.
    • This would include information on when you plan to relocate and where, the reason for the relocation, and the proposed new orders for custody and placement.
  2. If applicable, a request for a change in legal custody.
  3. Notice given to the other parent.
    • This includes a clause that if the other parent objects, they must file and serve an objection to the relocation no later than 5 days before the hearing, along with an alternate proposal.
  4. An attached objection to relocation form.

Once you have prepared your motion you must serve a copy of it, by mail, to the other parent’s address on file with the court.  However, if you have knowledge of a new address for that parent, then you must have the motion served to that address as well.

The next step is the initial hearing. 

What happens at the initial hearing?

Once a motion is filed, the court schedules an initial hearing within 30 days from when the motion was filed.  During this interim period, a child cannot be relocated.

At this hearing, much may occur. First, the court determines whether or not service was properly effectuated.  If service was proper, attention is turned to whether or not the non-filing parent shows up. If they fail to show, a default judgment typically enters.  If they do show up and object, the case is referred to mediation.

During the initial hearing, the court has the discretion to allow the relocation on a temporary basis if it finds doing so will provide for the child’s immediate best interest.

How is relocation decided on by the court?

The standards for determining relocation are located in the Wisconsin Statutes s. 767.481(4), or by clicking here.  Orders for relocation may vary, and different standards may apply, as follows:

  1. If the proposed relocation doesn’t impact the current schedule then the court shall approve the relocation.
    • An example would be where the parties already live more than 100 miles from one another and the non-filing parent has summer and holiday parenting time.
  2. If the proposed relocation does impact the current placement schedule, and is contested, then a court must consider the best interest of the child factors under 767.41(5) of the Wisconsin Statutes. As a caveat, there are built-in presumptions relating to the non-exercise of your court-ordered placement and whether or not the relocation is related to abuse, interspousal battery, or domestic abuse.
  3. In a contested relocation, the moving party bears the burden of proof. Thus, if you file for a relocation you have the burden to prove the relocation is in the child’s best interests.  If the other parent objects to the relocation and files a responsive motion, the burden shifts to them.

As evidenced above, child relocation cases can be exhaustive and complex. This is why it is best to seek an experienced and knowledgeable attorney.

At J.G. Law we can help you with your relocation issues.  Pick up the phone and give us a call today at (920) 383-1116.