When Child Relocation Requests Are Denied

After a divorce, an issue which may arise-and be fiercely contested-is the relocation of a child with one parent. In such a situation, the court applies the standard of the best interests of the child, while considering a number of key factors.

The recent Minnesota Court of Appeals case of Anh Phuong Le v. Holter shows how the court may weigh some of these factors in relation to a relocation request.

Mother seeks a job out-of-state

The mother and father ended their marriage after approximately eight years. The parents had joint legal custody of the children and the mother had physical custody. The father had the children on alternating weekends, as well as every Wednesday, and the decree further specified that the children could not be moved out of state without a court order or consent from the other parent.

Approximately two years after the divorce, the mother filed a motion to move the children from Minnesota to California. The mother explained that she was having a hard time finding a job in Minnesota, receiving only some contract work, and that when it ended, she would be forced to apply for welfare benefits. Because she had family and friends in California, she would have stronger job prospects there. In addition, living near her family would expose the children to their Vietnamese traditions and heritage.

The district court denied the mother's request, and the mother appealed.

Considering the best interests of the children

In determining the best interests of the child under the applicable Minnesota law, a court must evaluate a nonexclusive list of eight factors. The Court of Appeals found that the District Court had committed no errors in considering the factors and denying the mother's motion to relocate.

Among the factors, the court noted that the move to California would have a significant negative impact on the children's relationship with the father. Even with extended summer visitation, the father successfully argued that his current frequent contact with the children was more important than counting the total days in a year he might see them under a new arrangement.

While the mother argued she had better job opportunities in California, the court gave greater weight to published statistics showing that Minneapolis had a lower unemployment rate than San Diego. As far as receiving exposure to the children's Vietnamese heritage in California, the mother was already currently able to take the children to visit her family there.

For this and other reasons, the mother had failed to show that relocation was in the best interests of the children and the denial of her motion for a modification was affirmed.

Seek advice on your circumstances

If you are considering a request to relocate your children, even if it is nearby but in another state-like Hudson, Wisconsin-it is crucial that you consult with a family law attorney before you take any action. An attorney with experience in dealing with such proceedings can assist you in considering the factors and circumstances involved in your particular situation, and help you seek a positive outcome, whether through negotiation or litigation.