Custody and Moving Out of State: What Rights do Non-Custodial Parents in SC Have?

When two parents do not live under the same roof, one of the parents usually has primary custody of the child. In most cases, this means that the non-custodial parent has visitation rights, which could be something like every other weekend with the child, rotating holidays, etc.  This arrangement can work well as long as the two parents live close enough to each other that traveling to pick up and drop off the child is not a major burden for either of them.

But what happens if circumstances change? What if, for example, the custodial parent receives a lucrative job offer that requires them to move outside of South Carolina? Or what if the custodial parent wants to relocate to the other side of the Palmetto State to take care of a sick parent? This could be very upsetting for the noncustodial parent as it would likely mean far less visitation time with the child. 

Can the non-custodial parent stop the other parent from moving with the child? What rights do non-custodial parents have in a child relocation case in South Carolina?

Child Custody and Relocation in South Carolina

The good news for non-custodial parents is that a custodial parent cannot just pick up and move their child without the other parent’s approval; or if the other parent objects, without the approval of the court. That said, if you do object, you must prepare to forcefully argue your case to the family court for the child to stay. The likelihood that the court would allow a custodial parent to relocate with their child depends largely on the distance away the custodial parent wants to move and how, if at all, the non-custodial parent’s visitation schedule will be affected, along with other specific circumstances of the case.

In-State Relocations

If the custodial parent is planning to move with the child out of the area but remain close by, including close by within South Carolina, preventing this move may be an uphill battle. The family courts are sometimes reluctant to stop a minor relocation without a compelling reason. Aside from that, an in-state move may also be prevented if there is some kind of previous written legal agreement (as part of a child custody and visitation arrangement) that places geographical restrictions on where the parents can move the children to.

Out-of-State Relocations

For an out-of-state move, the courts will examine several factors to determine if the move is in the best interests of the child. These include:

  • The motivations and intentions of each parent in seeking the court’s approval to go through with the move or prevent the move;
  • The care and thoughtfulness that went into the decision to move (e.g., has this decision been thought through or is it based on a whim?);
  • The potential benefits and advantages of the proposed move (e.g., a better job, better schools, better living conditions, stronger family support, etc.);
  • The likelihood that the move will improve the quality of life for both the child and the custodial parent;
  • The availability of a practical and realistic alternative visitation arrangement that will allow the non-custodial parent to maintain an ongoing relationship with the child.

Both parties present evidence (e.g., documents, witnesses, and other pertinent information) to show why the court should rule in their favor. After the hearing is held and all the evidence is presented, the court will weigh the relevant factors and render a decision whether to approve or deny the relocation. If the out-of-state relocation is approved, a new visitation schedule will need to be created. This will often include extended visitation time for holidays, school breaks, and summer vacations to make up for the reduced frequency of visitations.

Speak with an Experienced South Carolina Family Law Attorney

If you are involved in a dispute regarding custody and moving a child out of the state of South Carolina, this can be among the most contentious issues to resolve, because both sides have so much to lose. Whichever side of this issue you are on, you need strong legal counsel in your corner advocating forcefully for your rights and interests.

For over 20 years, the Cate Law Firm has successfully represented clients for all types of family legal matters in Spartanburg and the surrounding South Carolina communities. We work closely with our clients, putting our extensive experience to work to develop practical and effective solutions that are in keeping with their best interests.

For a consultation with one of our knowledgeable and compassionate family law attorneys, call our office today at 864-251-5855. You may also message us through our web contact form.

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Cate & Brough, P.A.

At Cate & Brough, we all have personal experience with family law and family court. We know more than just what the law says about your issue – we know what you are going through.

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