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When will a parent be allowed to relocate a child outside Rhode Island?

In today's American society, people move often and for many reasons. For example, a new job may offer an enticing salary or seem like an economic necessity, or a fiance or fiancee may live halfway across the country. Unfortunately, the decision to relocate outside of a person's state of residence can become a complicated and thorny legal issue when that person has a minor child and the other parent has custody or visitation rights in the current state of residence.

Rhode Island family law

In Rhode Island, the parent seeking to relocate with such a child must seek modification of the current court order that controls custody and visitation. The parents may be able to negotiate an agreement between them modifying the custody and visitation arrangement, but often the parent who would remain behind and lose significant time with his or her child objects to the change in circumstances that would likely have a huge, negative impact on his or her parent-child relationship.

Important factors

If the matter ends up in court, Rhode Island case law sets out a list of factors that the court must consider to determine whether the move would be in the child's best interest and whether the court should modify a previous divorce or other court order controlling custody and visitation. Some of those factors include:

  • Whether the move would be reasonably likely to better the quality of life for the child and the relocating parent in financial, educational, emotional and similarly important matters.
  • The relationship of the child with each parent and whether the relationship with the parent left behind could still be maintained considering logistics and finances.
  • Extended family and friends in both locations.
  • Special needs of the child.
  • The child's feelings and preference, if he or she is mature enough to articulate and form them.
  • Mental and physical health of each parent and of the child.
  • "Moral fitness" of each parent.
  • Willingness and ability of the relocating parent to support a continuing relationship with the other parent.
  • And more.

In this age of technology, virtual visitation through video chatting, texting and emailing can enhance a long-distance parental relationship, but that is only one factor for the court to consider in its decision whether a relocation would be in a child's best interest.

Find experienced legal counsel

A relocation case can be emotional, expensive and legally complicated. It may involve the presentation of evidence to the judge from mental health and other professionals about the likely impact on the child. Therefore, anyone facing a parental relocation matter, whether seeking to move or to prevent a move, should seek the advice and counsel of an experienced Rhode Island family law attorney for guidance and representation.

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John L. Quigley, Jr.
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