It's a sad reality that during or after a South Carolina divorce, one party may decide to move out of state. This can happen for a host of reasons, including new jobs, new romances, moving closer to family, or just a desire for a new start. Whatever the reason, the pain for the noncustodial parent left behind can be great, forcing him or her to cope with dramatically diminished visitation time. Are there things that can be done in advance to prevent the possibility of child relocation after divorce?
Option 1 – Notice
The first thing to consider is including a notice provision into your settlement agreement and/or Divorce Decree. This involves inserting language into your parenting plan that states that before one parent can move out of state with the minor children, he or she must notify the other parent in advance of any such move. The purpose of this notification requirement is twofold: (1) to allow time for the parties to try and work out a new and mutually acceptable visitation arrangement and (2) if that fails, to provide the other parent time to object and ask the family court to intervene.
Option 2 – Backup Plan
Another option is to craft a backup plan to include in your parenting plan, which is a sort of automatic “Plan B” that will go into effect should one parent decide to move over a certain distance away from their current residence. Creating this alternative visitation schedule in advance is a good way to be prepared and avoid a costly fight down the road. This can be especially useful if you believe such a move may be lurking in the background or around the corner, and it's far better to address that possibility now rather than wait and have to do it all over again.
Option 3 – No Relocation Clause
One final option that some parents may want to consider is to create a firm “no-relocation” provision in your Divorce Decree or parenting plan. These types of provisions usually stated that the child may not be moved out of state or more than so many miles from his or her current residence without the other parent's consent. Depending on the specific language used, these can be difficult to enforce, as the court is cautious about infringing upon the right of one parent to move if there is a legitimate, good faith basis for the move. Additionally, there's always the risk that the court could decide to override the language if it decides, for whatever reason, that the best interest of the child would be served by relocating.