The Right to Relocate
Relocation of a parent after a divorce in Oklahoma can become an issue when children are involved in the move. Though we may wish to always live close to our children, sometimes work or other obligations require us to move. If this happens after a child custody order has been put in place, problems between the parties may arise.
Oklahoma Law Allows Relocation of the Parent
Though relocation may cause friction between parents, under Oklahoma law, a parent entitled to custody may relocate. But that right is subject to some conditions.
Under Oklahoma child custody relocation laws, the right to relocate is subject to the power of the court to restrain the removal of the child if that removal would prejudice the rights or welfare of the child.
For purposes of the relocation statute, “relocation” means a change in the principal residence of a child over 75 miles from the child’s principal residence for a period of 60 days or more. Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 112.3
The court is always interested in maintaining the best interests of the child first. In the case of relocation of the child, the rule is safety first. If the child will face the risk of physical or other danger, a court is unlikely to allow the child to move. In this case, the court may issue new custody orders granting custody to the remaining parent.
Likely Situations Where Relocation is Not Allowed
Some moves will provide a parent with a better job which may translate to a better life for the child, but not always. If the parent relocates to a job where instead of working 40 hours a week, the parent is likely to be working 60 hours a week, the court may not allow the relocation.
If the parent is looking to share living quarters with a person on the sex offender registry list, or who has been recently convicted of domestic abuse, the court may not allow the relocation.
Primary Custodial Parent and Principal Residence
In sole custody cases, there is little doubt who must notify the other parent about a relocation. The parent who maintains the child’s “principal residence” must notify the other parent. In sole custody cases, the principal residence is with the custodial parent. Joint custody cases can be more complicated.
Where parents have joint custody, Oklahoma courts in 2017 ruled that the primary custodial parent must notify the other parent about a proposed relocation. Yet, Oklahoma child custody laws do not define who is the primary custodian. They define instead what is a principal residence. The primary custodial parent could be presumed to be the one who maintains the principal residence. In cases where neither residence meets legal definitions of a principal residence.
Oklahoma child custody laws define principal residence as either the location designated by the court as principal residence, the location agreed by the parents to be the principal residence, or a place where the child lives for at least six consecutive months.
Ways to Deal With Moving
Courts take a dim view of parental plans to alienate a child from a parent. When possible, it may be helpful to modify the custody order by agreement to include the relocation and to ensure continuing visitation.
In fact, the law requires that the parent wishing to relocate with the child give notice of the impending move at least 60 days before the move. This allows the other parent to file a motion to stop the relocation of the child.
Absent explicit permission from the other parent for the relocation, once a motion is filed, the court must step in. A parent who is not upfront about the relocation plan with the other parent risks losing custody if the court finds against them. Therefore, it is always better to be upfront about potential moves and how they may affect the other parent and the child. That means giving notice regarding the move and working with the other parent to ensure continuing contact between parent and child.
If you have questions or concerns about a custody matter, bring them to a knowledgeable child custody attorney in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Free Consultation with a Tulsa Family Law Attorney
To help you better decide what course of action is best in your family situation, Wirth Law Office – Tulsa offers free consultations with an experienced child custody lawyer.
Call 918-879-1681 to set up a no-cost, no-obligation consultation or submit a question through this website.