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Custody and Relocation: Can I Move?

Louisiana's Relocation Statute can be found in La. R.S. 9:355.1 et seq.

The Relocation Statute applies when one parent (or other person with custody) intends to establish the principal residence of a child at any location outside the state of Louisiana. It also applies when moving the child's primary residence within the state of Louisiana more than 75 miles from the domicile of the other parent (if there is no custody order in place) or more than 75 miles from the principal residence of the child (if there is a custody order in place).

So what does this mean?

If the Relocation Statute is triggered, there are very specific Notice requirements that must be met prior to moving. Failure to give proper notice can harm your chances to successfully relocate and the Court may order that the child be returned to Louisiana. You may also be ordered to pay for the objecting parents fees.

Once proper notice is sent, a person who is entitled to object to the proposed relocation has 30 days to object.

If a proper objection is not made timely, the relocating parent may relocate the principal residence of the child.

If a proper objection is made timely, the relocating parent has 30 days to obtain court approval.

Note: If you have equal physical custody under a court decree, before a parent may relocate, that parent shall obtain either court authorization or the express written consent of the other person to relocate.

So how will the Court decide if the parties cannot agree?

The person proposing relocation has to prove that the proposed relocation is made in good faith and is in the best interest of the child.

The factors to determine contested relocation can be found in La. R.S. 9:355.14:

(1) The nature, quality, extent of involvement, and duration of the relationship of the child with the person proposing relocation and with the non-relocating person, siblings, and other significant persons in the child's life.

(2) The age, developmental stage, needs of the child, and the likely impact the relocation will have on the child.

(3) The feasibility of preserving a good relationship between the non-relocating person and the child.

(4) The child's views about the proposed relocation.

(5) Whether there is an established pattern of conduct by either the person seeking or opposing the relocation, either to promote or thwart the relationship of the child and the other party.

(6) How the relocation of the child will affect the general quality of life for the child.

(7) The reasons of each person for seeking or opposing the relocation.

(8) The current employment and economic circumstances of each person and how the proposed relocation may affect the circumstances of the child.

(9) The extent to which the objecting person has fulfilled his financial obligations to the person seeking relocation, including child support, spousal support, and community property, and alimentary obligations.

(10) The feasibility of a relocation by the objecting person.

(11) Any history of substance abuse, harassment, or violence by either the person seeking or the person opposing relocation, including a consideration of the severity of the conduct and the failure or success of any attempts at rehabilitation.

(12) Any other factors affecting the best interest of the child.

Please note that any change in the principal residence of a child, including one not meeting the threshold distance required to trigger the Relocation Statute may constitute a change of circumstances warranting a modification of custody. La. R.S. 9:355.17. It is therefore important that you seek experienced legal counsel and carefully follow the law prior to moving the principal residence of your child or if you want to prohibit the other parent from doing so.

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