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50/50 Child Custody Split & International Relocation of One Parent

Written By Patrick Baghdaserians, CFLS & Partner, and Deborah Soleymani, Esq.

As the world economy expands and the workforce becomes more international, parents are often confronted with the possibility of having to relocate in order to keep their jobs. For several large conglomerates, relocation can often involve a move to a foreign country.

Commonly known as " move aways" in the Family Law realm, relocation can have a serious impact on the familial unit, both practically and legally. This is especially true when considering families who are exercising a shared custodial plan. Traditionally, the majority of states required that the parent who is seeking the move-away with the child had the burden of demonstrating that the relocation was in the best interest of the child. More recently, many states have equalized the burden and placed the onus on both parents to prove whether the permission to, or denial of the move-away is in the child's best interest. Courts generally consider several factors, some of which are:

  1. The relocating parent's ability to financially support him/herself in the foreign country, rather than be dependent on the other parent
  2. The impact of the parties' stressful relationship on the children
  3. The relocating party's familial contacts in the foreign country
  4. The children's primary emotional attachment to the relocating party
  5. The location of the children's long-time home base

Recently, our firm, the Law Offices of Donald P. Schweitzer, handled an international move away case. The foreign jurisdiction was not a member of The Hague Convention, which provides international law connected to the travel/abduction of a child; and the parents shared 50/50 custody, which provided additional issues associated with a change of custody. In general, Courts find it hard to allow a move away in 50/50 custody split, especially for an international move. Needless to say, this was a hard fought battle.

In our case, the reason for the move was relatively simple. The father had received a once in a lifetime opportunity with an international corporation based out of Manila, Philippines, which was the locale of the move. Fortunately, the parties shared a cultural background so we did not face any cultural roadblocks.

Right off the bat, the court ordered a full child custody evaluation. The evaluation was lengthy (nearly 10 months) and involved several different fact-finding tools used by the evaluator, including interviews of multiple individuals (parties included), review of documentary evidence and clinical testing. Our team also spent a considerable amount of time collecting evidence, subpoenaing witnesses, and engaging in discovery. This information was considered in the eventual favorable custody evaluation report.

At the conclusion of the case, we were successful in obtaining the move away for our client. The court further ordered our client to obtain a civil bond, keep the other party abreast of the children's living conditions and required the moving party to pay for the children's travel to and from the United States.

  • "Move aways" can be a lengthy and involved process, so it's important to plan ahead. Here is a general summary of what a parent can expect when requesting an international move away:
  • First, facts matter! Be careful of what you put in writing; i.e. reasons for the move, financial well-fair, new employment/business opportunities etc.
  • Second, generally the courts will utilize some sort of fact-finding component. In most instances, this involves a child custody evaluation, conducted by a qualified mental health professional.
  • Third, the court will often order the moving parent to post a civil bond. This will ensure that the moving parent complies with the court order. In the event that the move away parent does not comply with court orders, the bond will be exercised and the non-moving will receive the funds secured by the fund. This is meant as a deterrent and provides in the event of prospective litigation for the non-moving parent.
  • Fourth, be familiar with the cultural difficulties posed by the foreign country.
  • Fifth, be ready to pick up the tab for children's travel back and forth.

Finally, international "move away" cases take time, so we emphasize the importance of planning ahead. If you are considering such a move, consult with a lawyer immediately.

Written By Patrick Baghdaserians, CFLS & Partner, and Deborah Soleymani, Esq.

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