Even though joint custody arrangements are the obvious preference of courts and most parents,
these arrangements can be a challenging experience. What can make them even more
challenging, however, is when one parent needs to move their residence out of state. In that
situation, maintaining the same custody arrangement usually becomes impossible, and a new
agreement needs to be established.
Of course, there are many “good faith” reasons for such a move. Obtaining a new job,
remarrying, or seeking new opportunities in general are all a part of life. A move while sharing
custody, though, is more complex and requires court approval.
What You Can Expect if a Co-Parent Needs to Leave the State
If both parties do agree on the new arrangement, they are able to simply sign a written consent
agreement. They then submit that agreement for court approval. The judge will ensure the new
arrangement is in the best interest of the child, and if it is, will approve the agreement.
However, when both parties do not agree, the process becomes slightly more complicated.
First, the parent making the move must petition the judge for the court order necessary to
relocate, as well as to approve any changes to the custody arrangement.
Joint custody has shown to benefit the child most, leading to more time with both parents, more
joint decision-making, and more long-term security for the child in many instances. Therefore,
the judge will review with the parties involved the reason for the move, any other potential
motives, the quality of life the move will provide, and the possibility of both parents spending
enough time with the child.
What You Need To Prepare
The parent who will be relocating will need to provide documentation of their plans on
maintaining a strong relationship with the child. This will likely be in the form of a precise
visitation schedule, laying out when and where these visitations will be. Be mindful that the
judge will take into account the added costs for visitation, which in turn could modify child
This parent will also need to prove to the judge that the move is made in “good faith”, and any
advantages the move provides. “Good faith” reasons include better employment, more
opportunities, or a better quality of life overall.
What If The Judge Does Not Approve?
In making the final decision, the judge will take the following into account:
● the needs of the child
● the child’s preference
● past interactions between child and parent
● the child’s need to adjust to new environments
● the child’s current situation, as well as how stable it is
● the ability of each parent to be a part of the child’s life
If the judge does not approve the relocation, the parent can still move, but without the child. If a
parent still takes the child, defying the order, they will face consequences such as fines, jail
time, and modified custody arrangements.
What South Carolina Law Says
South Carolina law states that a parent needs permission from both the other parent and a
judge in order to move out-of-state. If the other parent does not approve, a hearing will take
place. The relocating parent will need to provide evidence of a “good faith” reason for the move,
and receive approval for a new arrangement.
There are many instances in which a co-parent needs to move, and it may not always be
avoidable. However, custody arrangements always take precedence in the court. If you or your
co-parent are considering relocating for any reason, seeking guidance from a family law
attorney can help review what actions to take.