Can a parent in Utah just pick up and move with a child?

Even after a divorce has been finalized, disputes related to child custody can easily arise, particularly in circumstances when a custodial parent wishes to relocate with a child outside of Utah. Indeed, situations such as these can easily wreak havoc on already delicate child custody arrangements.

Fortunately, Utah law does contain provisions expressly drafted for dealing with issues related to child relocation — specifically, situations in which a custodial parent wishes to move a significant distance with a child in tow.

The Basics Of Parental Relocation In Utah

Under Utah law, "relocation" is defined as moving 150 miles or more from the residence of the non-relocating parent. Thus, if a custodial parent wishes to move less than 150 miles with a child, he or she does not have to seek permission from the court or even notify the non-relocating parent.

However, once the 150-miles threshold is met, there are expressed notification requirements in Utah. For instance, the relocating parent must give the non-relocating parent written notice of the proposed move at least 60 days beforehand.

Once a relocation has been proposed, either parent may ask the court to examine the issue and assess whether a new parent-time schedule is warranted. When addressing issues of parental relocation, Utah courts are primarily concerned with what is in the best interest of the child.

Accordingly, if the court decides that the proposed relocation is not in the child's best interest, but the custodial parent relocates anyway, the court may order a change in child custody. Alternatively, if the court finds that the move is in the child's best interests, it will likely permit the move - although it may also establish a new parent-time schedule. When making these determinations, a court may consider:

  • The reasons for the proposed relocation
  • The additional expenses or difficulty to both parents in exercising parent-time
  • The financial and/or economic resources of both parents
  • Any other relevant and necessary factors

It is also worth noting, however, that Utah law does outline a minimum parent-time schedule that may be instituted when a custodial parent seeks to move with a school-aged child and the parents are unable to agree upon a visitation arrangement.

Legal Guidance May Be Needed

Importantly, the information contained herein is simply a basic outline of Utah laws that pertain to parental relocation. Accordingly, if you have questions about moving with a child, or are already embroiled in a child relocation dispute, it is best to seek the counsel of an experienced child custody attorney. A skilled attorney can assist by explaining all relevant laws and help ensure your rights are protected.