Parental Relocation Rights and Duties in Tennessee

Often, after physical and legal custody rights have been established by a court order or a permanent parenting plan, one parent seeks to move. Sometimes the move is voluntary. Often, the parent moves because of the offer of a new or better job or due to educational opportunities. A parent may want to move if he/she remarries and the new spouse lives in another state or in an a far-away part of Tennessee.

The parent who seeks to relocate will usually seek to change the terms of the parenting plan, since large distances means the parent can’t spend as much time with child if the plan isn’t modified. Tennessee generally places the burden on the relocating parent to petition the court to change the parenting plan.

The Tennessee relocation statutory requirements

Tennessee statute 36-6-108 sets forth the requirements of the relocating parent and the rights of the parent who is not moving. These duties and obligations include the following:

  • The duty to give the other parent notice. A parent who is moving to a different state or moving more than 50 miles from the other parent must give the other parent formal notice of the intent to move – at least 60 days before the intended move. The notice should include the new address, the reason for the move, and a statement that the other parent can oppose the move by filing a petition within 30 days.
  • Changes in visitation. If the parents can’t work out a new visitation schedule, the parent who is relocating can file a petition to change the visitation schedule. The court will consider a variety of visitation factors including alternate arrangements and the cost of travel. The court may also consider a possible change in the amount of child support.
  • Changes in the parenting plan. The issues the court will consider and the presumptions differ depending on the current time spent with the child and whether the relocating parent wants to take the child with him/her.
    • Relocating parents want to take the child and the parents are currently spending substantially equal time with the children. The non-relocating parent can file a timely objection. There will be no presumptions pro or con to the move. The court, as always, will consider the best interests of the child. The court will consider the full range of factors it considers in a new custody dispute.
    • The time spent with the child is not equal and the parent who is spending more time wants to relocate with the child. The non-relocating parent can object. The relocating parent can’t move without court approval.

Generally, the relocation will be approved by the court. However, there are some exceptions to this “rule.” A modification from relocation may be denied if:

  • There isn’t a reasonable purpose for the move
  • The relocation would cause the child serious harm or a risk of serious harm. Examples include removing a child with a serious physical problem to an area where treatment is unavailable. The same idea applies if the move would cause a failure to address the educational needs of the child. Other examples include relocating to live with someone who has drug or alcohol abuse problems. The court can consider many other factors.
  • The reason for the move is vindictive and/or intended to circumvent the current visitation rights agreement or order

According to the statue, the gender of the parent wishing to move is not a factor the court considers.

Sometimes, a parent who is relocating does not wish to take the child with him or her permanently. In this situation, visitation rights are sometimes changed; perhaps the child spends part of the summer and longer vacations with the parent who is moving away, for example.

Life happens. Parents often have valid reasons for moving. Alternatively, some parents try to manipulate family law orders and plans by creating a false issue. The Franklin family law attorneys at the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates, fight for the rights of parents who need to relocate and for parents who worry a move will affect their loving relationship with their children. To learn what your rights and duties are In relocation cases, please phone us at 615-977-9370 or schedule an appointment by filling out our contact form. We represent parents going through divorce in Franklin, Columbia, Brentwood, and other parts of Tennessee.