WHAT IS THE RIGHT TIME TO HIRE AN ATTORNEY FOR RELOCATION?
The sooner you can get in touch with an attorney, the better. Attorneys can guide people in the direction as to things you should maybe be considering. It would be beneficial, because most attorneys should offer a free, brief consultation whether it is over the phone or in person, and give you a quick kind of shake-down of, “Tell me your situation”. Frankly, if I had someone give me 10 or 15 minutes of their time, and tell me the background of what happened prior to the move, and where they’re thinking about going, I can give them a pretty quick overview and analysis. With that, I will give my opinion of whether it sounds like you have a pretty good chance of getting the court to ratify a move or not. However, sometimes I do have people who wish to retain me even though they do not have valid reasons as to why they want to move. I tell those people, “Look, you can retain me if you want to, and I will try to get this done for you, but based on the factors you just told me, if I were to go present that to the judge today, you’d have a very tough time getting the judge to ratify your move.”
That is another real-world factor that is in the statute that says “role and involvement of each parent in the child’s life.” For example, I have seen a situation where you have a parent whose only parenting time is every other weekend. In that scenario, that parenting time schedule actually bodes well for the parent wanting to move, who has the kids more often. Truly you can say, “I can live a state away, and we can still figure out a way to get this parent two weekends a month.” In fact, I know how you would argue that, and how you would probably convince a judge that that will be okay.
Contrast that scenario, where that other parent, instead of having just two weekends a month, has a shared residency schedule. Essentially, you are kind of dealing with what I would call equal parenting time. If you have that factor, and someone was to call me and tell me that, I would say, “You’ve got a really involved parent on the other side. I hope you understand that by you wanting to move, you’re essentially taking them from having that much time, to essentially putting them in a place where probably at most they’re going to be able to see the children two weekends a month.”
Understand then and appreciate that it is a pretty dynamic change for the kids. While the parents have to come forth with the reasons for and against the move, at the end of the day, it is all about the kids’ best interest. That will be the prevailing circumstance the courts look at. If you are in a situation where you have two parents with nearly equal parenting time, and then one parent wants to move a couple states away, you are going to have a very tough, uphill battle to prove to the court why it should ratify the move. That is why you should get in touch with an attorney, because they can give you a quick analysis of your case and the circumstances involved. They can also then guide you to say, “Maybe you could start doing these things, to maybe help increase your chance, or see if you can get the other side to agree.” Then, you can establish that as the status quo for a couple months, and then give them your notice to move. If you think the other side is going to move school districts, and you know you want to move across state or to a different state, I would say, “Hey, let the other parent move out of the school district, and then give them your notice to move.” At that point in time, you have a right to move regardless if it is a block or a state away. The kids’ school involvement is one of the factors they would look at. In that scenario, you would increase your chances of being able to get the court to ratify the move by doing so at the appropriate time, and waiting for the other side to move out first.
Most attorneys should offer a free consultation, but not all do. Our law firm does. Someone could come in, and I would give them anywhere from thirty to forty-five minutes of my time, and kind of review those things with them. At that point in time they would decide, is there some way they want to move forward in a legal capacity? Do you want to retain me now, to have me there on call, or do you want to follow up? It may be, after the thirty-minute conversation, they realize they do not have much of a chance of successfully moving, so they might change their minds.