When most parents get divorced, they are looking to end a marriage, not the parental rights. In some cases, situations may arise in one of the parents’ lives requiring them to move out of state. Given that there are typically custody arrangements in a divorce, an out-of-state custody agreement must be produced.

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Out-of-State Child Custody Agreement

A child custody arrangement is typically a part of a legal separation or divorce decree in Utah in cases of couples who have children. For divorced parents who live in different states than their ex-spouses, an out-of-state custody agreement becomes necessary. In an out-of-state custody agreement, usually, one parent is awarded sole custody, and the other is awarded visitation rights.

The State wants children to have the benefits of spending time with their parents, but does not want to force children and/or parents into circumstances requiring them to travel excessively. Therefore, a child custody order and the associated parent-time order may stipulate arrangements in case of a parent’s relocation.

If the court order does not include provisions for possible relocation, a standard process is in place for this under Utah law. That process is necessary if one parent decides to relocate more than 150 miles from the other parent after the divorce. If that happens, either of the two parents may request a new order from the court regarding modifications to the parent-time arrangement or even an order for a change of custody. The Utah Courts website provides more details and processing forms when a parent relocates in divorce and custody cases.

IMPORTANT: Be aware that jurisdiction over legal matters regarding child custody may change when one spouse relocates to another state. When a custody or related order is handed down from a court in another jurisdiction with intent for it to be enforced in Utah, the order must first be registered in Utah. The Utah Courts site provides the necessary form for Registering a Foreign Order to enable Utah Courts to enforce and/or modify the order.

Taking Child Welfare Into Account

There are several factors present when working out the details of an out-of-state custody agreement. Moving a child back and forth can be hard on them when adapting to surroundings they are not familiar with, not to mention friends, school, family, etc. The courts are the ones that decide who keeps the child, ensuring that their decision is in the best interest of the child. These arrangements don’t necessarily hurt anyone intentionally but can sometimes seem like it. It is suggested that the parents discuss and are encouraged to design their own custody arrangement in order to prevent any disagreements. Parents are the experts on what their schedules are like and who can best meet the needs of the children.

Frequently Asked Question on Out-of-State Custody Agreements

Parents are encouraged to work through their own out-of-state custody arrangements. If they are unable to come to an agreement, they can ask the Utah family court to decide the matter. In such cases, a custody order from the court will decide physical and legal custody. (Utah Code 30-3-10.2)
When a parent who is sharing joint custody chooses to relocate more than 150 miles from the noncustodial parent’s home, the parent must show that the move is in the child’s interest. In some cases, the court may determine that it is in the child’s interest to order a change of custody to the other parent, perhaps in order to enable the child to remain in the familiar area, among other reasons.
Again, parents are encouraged to work together to create an out-of-state custody arrangement that works best for their child and all involved. If the judge determines that the agreement makes sense and is suitable for the child, it is typically approved.
Other approaches to obtaining an out-of-state custody arrangement include:
  • The parents can independently submit their proposed custody and parent-time arrangements to the judge for a decision.
  • Divorce or child custody attorneys can create a proposed joint arrangement and help the parents negotiate agreed terms.
  • A mediator can create an arrangement and help the parents settle on mutually acceptable custody and parent-time arrangement.
  • A judge can create a custody and parent-time arrangement based on the evidence already covered in the original trial.
An out-of-state agreement is similar in nature to an in-state agreement. Legal and physical custody is decided, and how custody should be divided with each parent is outlined. Out-of-state agreements are often more detailed in the allocation of time, such as who will visit the child in their state and when the child will travel out of state. Child-rearing decisions like chores, discipline, and communication will often be mapped out so as to make it consistent between each home. There is also the amount and frequency of child support to consider. The costs associated with raising children is as high as it ever has been, this means that health insurance, schooling, taxes, and other requirements must also be taken into account. You also need to take into account your children’s personal and everyday needs as well as their developmental needs. It’s always a good idea to work with an attorney so the best interests of the child are met and the agreement is thorough and legally binding.
Customizing your own agreement is always the best scenario. In an ideal world, exes would be able to set personal issues aside, sit down and calmly discuss all the details of the custody arrangement while ensuring the child’s welfare. When working through your agreement, here are some things to consider:
  • Age and Maturity of the Children
  • Health and Special Needs of the Children
  • Distance Between Each Home
  • Type, Time, and Cost of Travel
  • School and Work Schedules for All Involved.
If the agreement no longer works for you or the ex-spouse, revisions can be made. This will typically require a return to family court in order to request changes. This revision must be requested in the state the child lives and should not be made unless absolutely necessary. If you feel you need a better or different agreement, contact an attorney, they can assist you in knowing your rights as well the rights and best interest of your child/children.
Out-of-state custody agreements address the same issues as a regular in-state custody arrangement:
  • Legal Custody: Who will make major decisions in the child’s interest, such as choices about the child’s education, medical care, religious training, and others.
  • Physical Custody: When each parent will have parent-time with the child, when the non-custodial parent will travel to visit the child, and when the child will travel to visit the non-custodial parent. (Utah 30-3-37)
  • Co-parenting Rules: Stipulations regarding various areas of parenting, such as communications with the child and between the parents, discipline, and others.
  • Financial Matters: Responsibility for paying costs such as the child’s health insurance premiums and other expenses not factored into the child support amount. Who will benefit from child-related tax credits, and other financial questions are also not factored in.
There is no standard custody arrangement that works ideally for all divorced parents. However, there are some common issues you should consider when determining how the custody agreement needs to be modified due to one of the parent’s relocation:
  • Your child’s age and wishes
  • Your child’s health and particular needs
  • Distance between your ex-spouse’s home and yours
  • The form of travel necessary for parent-time
  • Your and your ex’s ability to pay for travel
  • Work and school schedules
It may be helpful to look at some typical parent-time schedules used in long-distance arrangements, for insights into options for your custody agreement.
Before you seek a modified court order in Utah regarding child custody when one parent moves out of state, check to find out if the Utah court has jurisdiction. In some cases, it may be possible that the court in the state in which the ex-spouse currently resides has jurisdiction.
See the Utah Courts web page on jurisdiction and modifying custody, parent-time, or child support. (Utah 30-3-37) and the State’s publication Jurisdiction to Modify a Custody or Parent-time Order.
The Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which is published by the U.S. Department of Justice determines which state has jurisdiction in custody cases.
Utah divorce law stipulates when and where parent-time will take place and where the custodial parent is allowed to live (Utah Code 30-3-37). Relocation laws do not pertain to moves across state lines. But, these laws do apply when a custodial parent moves 150 miles or more from the non-custodial parent‘s home.
Utah law requires the custodial parent to provide the non-custodial parent with a minimum of a 60-day notice of his or her intent to relocate. The notice must show that the long-distance move will be in the child’s best interest and that it will not interfere with the other parent’s parent-time.
The court will conduct a hearing to review the relocation notice. The judge will consider the reason for the proposed move. The court will also consider both parents’ financial resources, impacts to parent-time, and numerous other issues. If the judge prohibits the move but the parent relocates despite the court’s ruling, the consequences may include penalties and possibly a change of custody (Utah 30-3-37-4).
If your ex-spouse relocates in violation of the court’s order prohibiting the move, per Utah Code 30-3-10-9, this does not legally entitle you to break rules too. You must continue to follow the rules set for parent-time, child support payments, and meet other obligations under the court order.
If your ex-spouse has relocated with your child and did not get approval from the court to do so, you need to protect all your parental rights. A Utah child custody lawyer can guide the legal process that you’ll need to undertake to approach the court to rectify the situation. Your action may result in fines for the custodial parent or possibly even a change of the custody order.
Either of you may be allowed by the court to relocate out of state. However, in Utah, the law requires a parent who is planning to move more than 150 miles from the other parent’s home to provide a Notice of Relocation. The notice must be delivered no less than 60 days before the planned moving day.
The notice will explain that the relocation will not interfere with parent-time for the other parent. The notice can lay out a proposed new parent-time schedule and address other issues. For example, it can also detail a proposed plan for dividing and reimbursing the costs of transportation for parent-time.
Under Utah State Code 30-3-37, you can file a Motion for Orders Regarding Relocation to ask the court for a hearing to review the custodial parent’s Notice of Relocation. For example, you may opt to take that action if you do not agree with one of these parts of the proposed relocation plan:
  • The custodial parent’s plan to move long-distance with your child
  • The proposed new parent-time schedule
  • Your ex-spouse’s proposed division of transportation costs for parent-time
  • The proposed approach to reimbursement of the transportation costs
The judge will conduct a hearing to determine whether the custodial parent’s proposed relocation is in the child’s best interest, how parent-time will be allocated when each parent will have parent-time and who will bear travel costs, and if child support will be affected.
IMPORTANT: Before you seek a modified court order in Utah regarding child custody when one parent moves out of state, check to find out if the Utah court has jurisdiction.
If the custodial parent relocates beyond 150 miles from the noncustodial parent’s home without permission from the court, there can be serious consequences. The court may order fines and possibly even a change of custody. However, the custodial parent’s violation does not relieve the noncustodial parent of his or her legal obligations under the court order. For example, the child must be returned to the other parent on time and in the manner the court ordered. The noncustodial parent must also continue paying any child support payments ordered by the court.

Contact the Experienced Attorney to Handle Out-of-State Custody Agreements

If your ex-spouse relocates long-distance with your child in violation of the court order, it is important to know your legal rights. You’ll need an experienced Salt Lake City child custody lawyer who can help you execute the legal process to seek remedies, potentially including an order for a change of custody.

 If you need help with an out-of-state custody matter, call Wall & Wall Attorneys at Law, P.C., Salt Lake City UT at (801) 441-2388, or contact us online to schedule a consultation to discuss your situation.

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