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Can parents leave Arkansas with their children post-divorce?

On Behalf of | May 15, 2024 | Child Custody And Visitation

A divorce in Arkansas inevitably alters all of a family’s relationships. Spouses officially sever their legal ties to one another. They also have to rework the relationship that they have with their children. Instead of being with the children consistently every day, parents who divorce have to find ways to share custody with one another.

They divide both parenting time and the authority to make choices about their children. Once the courts approve a final custody order, the adults typically need to follow the terms outlined in that order. Few things can make compliance more difficult than a sudden increase in the distance between parental residences. Maybe one parent wants to take a job in another state or move three counties away to be closer to their parents.

Can the adult who has more parenting time move with the children while subject to a custody order in Arkansas?

Relocations require approval

A move that could substantially increase the distance between the households of the parents can make regular custody exchanges expensive or unrealistic due to the amount of travel required. Typically, a parent hoping to relocate with the children needs to obtain approval from their co-parent or the courts.

Occasionally, both adults recognize that a move could be beneficial for the children. An increase in parental income or proximity to extended family can help children going through a difficult time. Other times, there is strong opposition to the proposed move because it could negatively affect the relationship that the other adult has with the children.

If parents cannot cooperate to modify their custody order, then the matter may require the review of a family law judge. Prior court rulings in Arkansas have established precedent that favors the parent proposing the move. The courts tend to approve relocation requests in many cases as they assume that the move could be in the best interests of the children.

The parent opposing the move can present evidence establishing that a relocation is an attempt at parental alienation or might put the children in an unsafe environment. If a judge agrees with that parent, they could potentially alter the custody order to allow the non-moving adult to obtain more parenting time and keep the children in Arkansas. Other times, adjustments to the parenting plan might include granting the adult who isn’t moving more time with the children during school breaks.

Move-away scenarios can be very contentious during – or in the wake of – an Arkansas divorce. Understanding how the courts handle relocation requests can benefit those proposing a move and those opposing one to make more informed decisions about their rights and options.