What must I do if I plan to move and there is an existing child custody decree?

Kansas law requires that any parent who has court ordered residency or parenting time with a child, must give written notice to the other parent, at least 30 days before moving to any other place. Kansas law also requires written notice to the other parent if a parent plans on taking the child outside the state of Kansas for more than 90 days.

The written notice must be sent to the non-moving parent by certified mail, marked “return receipt requested” and “deliver to addressee only.” The written notice must be sent to the address where the non-moving parent is then living or, if unknown, to the non-moving parent’s last known address.  Failure to give this required notice may result in a finding by the court of “contempt” against the moving parent, which may also result in an order for payment of attorneys’ fees and costs the non-moving parent incurs.

The reason for the requirement of  written notice of any move is to give the parents an opportunity to work out any needed changes to their parenting schedule before the move. Even though the majority of parents talk often about their plans, there are many couples that don’t have easy or free communications about their situations or their plans. This notice requirement is intended to help parents keep each other informed about some things the Legislature believes is critical: that parents should know where their child is living so that they can easily continue their relationship with their child.

Even if the parents can’t work out needed or desired changes on their own, the notice statute gives separated or divorced parents a chance to work out disagreements about any revised parenting schedule by working with a mediator, counselor, or attorney.

But the statutory 30-days notice is not just intended to make sure that parents discuss and agree to needed changes in their parenting plan as a result of the move. It is also intended to allow the non-moving parent enough time to evaluate the situation and decide what that parent should do about the move, if anything. While every adult person has the absolute right to live where he or she desires, the courts are conscious about problems that sometimes arise when parents disagree over whether the child should move from the place that child has lived.

If the non-moving parent does not believe the move should occur, that parent may file a motion with the courts to review the situation and the parent proposing to move may need to obtain permission from the Court to change the child’s permanent residence. In such a case, the court determines whether child may move with the moving parent by deciding what result is in the child’s best interests. In making that decision, Kansas statutes provide that the court must consider the following factors, among others:

  1. the effect of the move on the best interests of the child;
  2. the effect of the move on any party having parenting time rights; and
  3. the increased cost the move will impose on any party having parenting time.

And the non-moving parent can file that motion either before or after the move has occurred. Further, the non-moving parent can obtain an order from the court prohibiting the parent who wants to move from moving (or ordering that the child be turned over to the other parent’s residency if the moving parent has already moved) if the court is asked to do so. I’ve had cases where a mother moved from Kansas City to California after giving the father 30 days notice of her planned move, in which the judge ordered the children returned to Kansas City to live with the father (if the mother didn’t also return to Kansas City), which resulted in nearly one year of mom having to live in Kansas City until the case was finally decided.

Because any move is a potential basis for the non-moving parent to file a motion with the court to review or modify the parenting schedule, it is always important to consult with an attorney when thinking about moving, whether across town or across the country. It is important that when a move is planned, that the proper notice is given to the other parent in compliance with the law, even if the move is only across the street or a few blocks away.