Navigating Child Relocation: The Basics

If you or your ex-spouse wishes to move away or relocate with your child, it is important to be aware of the many legal restrictions and requirements that a court will examine when determining whether or not to allow such a move.

If you have questions about parental and/or child relocation, and wish to speak to an experienced family law attorney, contact the Thomas Family Law Firm, PLC. While our office is located in Germantown, just outside of Memphis, our lawyers can help you with both Tennessee and Mississippi law. Email us online, or call us at 901-443-4599 for help today.

Understanding Parental Relocation In Tennessee And Mississippi

If a parent wishes to move outside of Tennessee or more than 50 miles from the other parent, he or she is required under Tennessee law to send written notice of a proposed move to the non relocating parent. This notice, which the relocating parent must send by certified or registered mail at least 60 days before the proposed move, should include the reasons for the move, the anticipated new residence as well as a statement informing the other parent has 30 days to file an opposing petition to the move. If the non relocating parent does not object within this 30-day window, he or she may not be able to later.

If the parents are unable to agree on a new visitation or custody arrangement, the court may do it for them. However, the test applied by the court largely depends on whether the child spends equal time with both parents.

For instance, if the parents spend substantially equal intervals of time with the child, and the non relocating parent objects to the move, the court will decide whether to permit the child's relocation based upon the child's best interests. When assessing the best interests of a child, a court will review any relevant factor, including those used when initially determining child custody.

Alternatively, if the parents do not spend substantially equal time with the child, and it is the custodial parent who wishes to move with the child, he or she must still get the court's permission to relocate if the other parent objects to the proposed move. However, Tennessee courts will permit a relocation under these circumstances, unless:

  • There is no reasonable purpose for the move
  • The move poses a specific threat of serious harm to the child, which outweighs the possible harm of a custody change
  • The reason for the proposed move is simply to hinder the visitation or custodial rights of the noncustodial parent

If one of these circumstances exists, the court will examine whether or not the move is in the child's best interests.

Conversely, Mississippi law does not contain an established process for child relocations. In fact, in many cases, the only way to stop a move is to seek a change in custody. Therefore, if you are the custodial parent, you can typically move with a child if you want, although there is a Chancery Court rule that says you need to notify the Clerk of the Court of your new address within five days after your move.