Relocating After a Divorce: Potential Legal Issues
If either you or your ex-spouse plans to move to a different town, state, or country after your divorce, you need to consider the legal implications before you make any big changes. It’s understandable if you want to spread your wings and start fresh, move closer to family, or take a new job somewhere else. However, as tempting as this idea may be, it’s important to think about how relocating could affect your life post-divorce. If you have children, the change could be far more complex than you think.
Before you make any big plans to relocate, consider how moving could impact your divorce from a legal standpoint.
Honoring the Divorce Decree
When your divorce is finalized, you and your spouse will each be given copies of the divorce decree. The divorce decree is the final document of your divorce that contains specific instructions for each spouse regarding their final responsibilities, as stipulated in the divorce. In other words, anything you negotiated and agreed upon during your divorce will be documented in the legally-binding document. This is especially important when it comes to property division.
Dividing your marital property isn’t usually a quick and easy process. It often takes a couple a good amount of time to divvy up their belongings, even if everything is already outlined in the divorce decree. Sorting through your belongings can be tedious and signing over deeds and other larger assets can require additional paperwork that might take time. Also, some couples agree to split the profit they receive from the sale of certain shared assets, so those funds won’t come in until the property is sold and the funds are received.
Why is this relevant? Well, if you want to relocate, honoring these orders in your divorce decree could be much more difficult. In fact, if you move away without tying up these loose ends, you could face serious repercussions. The divorce decree is a court document, and ignoring it is not a good idea. So, before you move away, make sure you’ve handled everything you need to.
Potential Effects on Child Custody
If you are a parent, relocating after divorce should raise a few flags for a particularly important reason—your children. The divorce process will likely include a child custody arrangement, so you and your ex should know where you stand when it comes to your parenting plan. However, if either of you relocates, your parenting plan could go completely out the window. Relocating is one of the biggest reasons for modifying a child custody arrangement because your existing plan will probably not work if the parents live in different areas. Whether the relocating parent wishes to take the children with them or not, relocating is a significant issue that should not be taken lightly.
It’s important to point out that a parent, whether they have sole custody or not, cannot move away with their child without making any legal plans first. The other parent likely has visitation rights or both parents may share custody, so if one parent takes their child and moves without notifying the court, they could face serious legal penalties. If either spouse is serious about moving, he or she should discuss it with their attorney and then petition the court for a child custody modification. Either the court can review the case and develop an alternative parenting plan, or the parents can negotiate a new child custody arrangement and submit it to the court for approval. Since a parenting plan is a legal document you must abide by, it is highly recommended that you consult with an attorney before attempting a modification.
Seeking Legal Guidance
Whatever your reason, relocating after your divorce could be complicated. If you’re seriously considering a move, or if your ex-spouse wishes to move, make sure you discuss the situation with your divorce attorney and find out how this change could affect you.
Contact McKinley Irvin at our Oregon office to meet with our divorce lawyers.