When a divorced Utah parent of a minor child wants to relocate

For a divorced custodial parent to move a minor child away from its other parent, the move must be in the child's best interest.

There are numerous and diverse reasons for a divorced individual to move, including but not limited to:

  • A new job or a transfer
  • A new relationship or spouse
  • The need to live closer to extended family for financial or emotional support, for help with child care or to enrich these relationships
  • A fresh start after a difficult divorce process
  • The need to live in a location with a cheaper cost of living
  • A desire to put more distance between him or herself and the other ex-spouse
  • Better resources for children like schools or medical providers

Whatever the reason, such a move when there are minor children involved is almost always going to affect custody and visitation arrangements that were agreed to or ordered by the court in the divorce.

Utah relocation law

As compared to that of some other states, Utah law is quite specific and detailed about how proposed parental relocations are to be handled. Utah's relocation laws kick in when a parent plans to move at least 150 miles away from the other parent's home.

The parent who wishes to move this far away must provide written notice of his or her intentions to the other parent at least 60 days in advance of the proposed move. Failure to meet the notice requirement can result in a contempt of court charge.

Obviously, parenting time will need to be revised if the parents no longer live in the same community. The notice must indicate what will happen to parenting time, usually called visitation, after the move. Either a specific schedule set out in the relocation statute must be followed or the parents must negotiate a schedule that they can agree on.

Either parent can ask the court to schedule a hearing to consider the notice, its parenting time provisions and transportation costs associated with long-distance visitation. An expedited hearing may also be requested.

Impact on custody

If the moving parent has primary physical custody of the child and the move would mean taking the child with him or her, the court will determine if the move would be in the child's best interest. If the judge decides it would not be and the parent still wants to move, the court can order that custody be modified to let the child live primarily with the left-behind parent.

If the court allows the child to move with the relocating parent, the judge must decide visitation scheduling and transportation-cost issues. The judge can order a specific schedule, but otherwise there are minimum, detailed requirements for contact set out in the Utah relocation statute that vary depending if the minor child is under or over five years old.

This introduces the basics of a complicated area of Utah family law.

If you or an ex-spouse is contemplating a relocation, it would be wise to speak with a skilled attorney today. Kristopher K. Greenwood & Associates, LC, has numerous attorneys who handle these types of issues every day. Please call one of our skilled attorneys in Ogden, Park City, Salt Lake City or Lehi for immediate answers to all of your questions.