If you are reading this article, chances are you are interested in relocating with your child, or, would like to prevent your spouse, or ex-spouse, from relocating with your child. The following is meant to serve as a concise explanation of the laws which govern relocation cases in the State of Connecticut. As the analysis employed during divorce proceedings is quite different than the analysis utilized in the post-judgment context, the laws governing each scenario are addressed separately.
During divorce proceedings, parties often consider moving a considerable distance apart. Unfortunately, even in cases where parents might agree to a joint custody arrangement, that distance may have a significant impact on the feasibility of regular visitation, typically impeding upon the non-custodial parent’s access to his or her children.
When determining whether relocation is appropriate during a divorce proceeding, or upon final dissolution, the Court will base its decision on whether the move is in the “best interests” of the child or children. In determining the “best interests” of children the Court will consider one or more of the factors specifically enumerated in Connecticut General Statutes Section 46b-56(c).
Connecticut General Statutes
Although the following is not an exhaustive list, those factors include:
1) the temperament and developmental needs of the child;
2) the ability of the parents to understand and meet the needs of the child;
3) any relevant information obtained from the child, including the informed preferences of the child;
4) the wishes of the child’s parents as to custody;
5) the past and current interaction and relationship of the child with each parent, the child’s siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the best interests of the child;
6) the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a continuing parent-child relationship;
7) any manipulation by or coercive behavior of the parents in an effort to involve the child in the parents’ dispute;
8 ) the ability of each parent to be actively involved in the life of the child;
9) the child’s adjustment to his or her home, school and community environments;
10) the stability of the child’s existing or proposed residences;
11) the mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
12) the child’s cultural background; and
13) the effect on the child of domestic violence which has occurred between the parents, or between a parent and another individual or the child.
Notably, the Court is not required to assign any specific weight to the factors it considers.
Connecticut Courts have held that the issues which arise in cases initiated after a divorce is obtained (a post-judgment action) are considerably different than those present during divorce proceedings. In recognition of those differences, the State of Connecticut enacted Connecticut General Statutes Section 46b-56d, which governs relocation specifically in the post-judgment context.
According to Section 46b-56d, where relocation would have a significant impact on an existing parenting plan, the relocating parent bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that
1) the relocation is for a legitimate purpose;
2) the proposed relocation is reasonable in light of such purpose; and
3) the relocation is in the best interest of the child (see analysis above).
In making its determination in the post-judgment context, the Court must consider,
1) each parent’s reasons for seeking or opposing the relocation;
2) the quality of the relationships between the child and each parent;
3) the impact of the relocation on the quantity and the quality of the child’s future contact with the non-relocating parent;
4) the degree to which the relocating parent’s and the child’s life may be enhanced economically, emotionally and educationally by the relocation; and
5) the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the non-relocating parent and the child through suitable visitation arrangements.
Attorney Attorney Joseph C. Maya practices out of Maya Murphy’s Westport, CT office. He welcomes inquiries and can be reached by telephone at (203) 221-3100 or by e-mail at JMaya@Mayalaw.com. Call today to schedule a free initial consultation.