Parental Relocation in Tennessee

If you are a parent of minor children, you may find that you’re in a situation where you have to move yourself and the children to a new location, perhaps due to a new job, new marriage, family obligations, or some other reason.  There are a couple of steps you need to take if you want to move your children with you.  Tennessee Code Annotated 36-6-108 says:

If a parent who is spending intervals of time with a child desires to relocate outside the state or more than one hundred (100) miles from the other parent within the state, the relocating parent shall send a notice to the other parent at the other parent’s last known address by registered or certified mail. Unless excused by the court for exigent (emergency) circumstances, the notice shall be mailed not later than sixty (60) days prior to the move. The notice shall contain the following:

(1) Statement of intent to move;
(2) Location of proposed new residence;
(3) Reasons for proposed relocation; and
(4) Statement that the other parent may file a petition in opposition to the move within thirty (30) days of receipt of the notice.

Notice that this statute is addressed to “a parent who is spending intervals of time with a child”.  It doesn’t matter if your visitation is controlled by a parenting plan, divorce decree, or just an agreement with the other parent.  You must provide this notice.

If the other parent files a petition to object to your move, the family law judge will have to decide whether or not you will be allowed to take your children with you.  His analysis depends on your actual visitation arrangements.

The parents are spending equal amounts of time with the children

If you and the other parent are seeing the children for approximately the same amount of time (what some people call split parenting), there is no presumption for or against taking the kids with you.  Both sides will have to explain their view to the judge.  The judge is instructed to consider “all relevant factors”, and the statute lists some specific considerations:

  • The extent to which visitation rights have been allowed and exercised;
  • Whether the primary residential parent, once out of the jurisdiction, is likely to comply with any new visitation arrangement;
  • The love, affection and emotional ties existing between the parents and child;
  • The disposition of the parents to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, education and other necessary care and the degree to which a parent has been the primary caregiver;
  • The importance of continuity in the child’s life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment;
  • The stability of the family unit of the parents;
  • The mental and physical health of the parents

The statute goes on to list several other factors, but the judge can consider any information that is relevant to the situation.  What this analysis comes down to is the judge is now in a position to decide which of the parents will now become the primary caregiver of the child, and the court is free to choose either of the parents to fulfill this role.

The parent with the majority of parenting time wants to relocate

If the parent who spends the majority of the time with the child wants to relocate, there is a presumption that the parent should be allowed to move unless the other parent can prove to the court one of the following:

  • The relocation does not have a reasonable purpose;
  • The relocation would pose a threat of specific and serious harm to the child that outweighs the threat of harm to the child of a change of custody; or
  • The parent’s motive for relocating with the child is vindictive in that it is intended to defeat or deter visitation rights of the non-custodial parent or the parent spending less time with the child.

The burden of proof is on the parent who is objecting to the relocation of the children.  What this means is if you are the parent who spends less time with the child and the other parent proposes a move, it’s up to you to show the court that the situation fits into one of the above conditions.  The other parent does not have to prove that the move is appropriate.

What you need to know

This is a brief overview of the requirements in the Tennessee Statute.  There’s more to it, and if you’re in this situation you would benefit from the assistance of a lawyer to help you.  Contact me to find out how I can help you.

 

Important update:  On July 1st, 2013, a law passed that changed the distance requirement from 100 miles to 50 miles.  This new limitation applies regardless what your parenting plan or final decree may say.  From this date forward, any move of more than 50 miles will require notice to the other parent.