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Relocating after an Ohio divorce and the effect on child custody

Life changes following divorce can affect where an ex-spouse wants to live. When a new job or other opportunity prompts a divorced Ohio parent to move, decisions must be made about changes to child custody arrangements.

Divorced parents maintain a long-term, if not lifetime, connection through shared children. A distant move may wreak havoc upon a child custody order or visitation rights.

Adults cannot be forced to remain in a geographical area against their will. Courts step in when relocation plans interfere with custody agreements. First and foremost, a judge wants what is best for a child. Parents' wishes are acknowledged but secondary.

Relocation provisions in custody orders often contain boundaries defined by mileage or borders. Divorced adults may move beyond those lines at the risk of affecting custody rights. In some cases, judges decide a child's best interests are within a certain locale and switch custody to the opposite parent.

Parents may request a modification of custody when a significant move is planned or an unreported move by an ex-spouse is suspected.

Judges consider multiple factors before altering child custody arrangements. Questions a family court judge will ask focus on the child. A judge is not likely to upend a child's education, family ties, friendships, medical care or activities without good reasons.

A judge will gauge whether relocation prevents parents from living up to dual obligations to provide emotional and financial child support. The court will examine the involvement the parents already have in a child's life and the child's ties to a community.

Judges may request a custody evaluation, which may include a child's opinion about relocation. A child's choice does not dictate a judge's ruling, but it can influence a decision depending on other factors involved.

Legal professionals recommend planning moves carefully and well in advance. Any change in a custody agreement must satisfy a family court's duty to make children a priority.

Source: aconews.com, "Single parents juggle child custody with personal freedom," Kim K. Steffan, Jan. 19, 2013

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