Relocation: ex-wife just told me she’s moving out of state with the kids

What do I do?

My ex-wife tonight, in a fit of anger, told me that she and the kids will be moving out of state. There’s no reason–like a job or school or even remarriage–for her to move out of state.

I’m not sure how serious she is, but on the chance it does happen, how does that affect custody and parent time? We have joint custody, with her as custodial parent, and our decree says she has tentative final say, subject to my right to bring it to mediation.

As things stand now, odds are (odds are) that you will lose this fight, if it goes to court.


The “kids already spend more time in Mom’s custody than in Dad’s argument” is a good one and one that Mom will almost surely use. And let’s be honest: Mom will never claim she decided to move to Missouri “in a fit of anger.” It is ludicrous to believe that your ex-wife would ever admit in court that she is moving out of spite. Of course she’ll never fess up to that. She will deny it. She and her shyster attorney will it come up with plausible sounding reasons for the relocation. So you have to ask yourself: how will I win an argument against A) the parent who has custody the majority of the time; B) who is the all-important mother; and C) who will have no compunction against lying to improve your odds of success?


You might snatch victory from the gaping jaws of defeat, if you can show, among other things, that her move is in fact a spiteful move, or not one born of necessity, or contrary to preserving/fostering the best interest of the children, or that her move would do the children more harm than good, or that it would take the children not only from you, but from a crucial and broad extending family and friends support system, etc.

Another way is to take action to prevent her from moving. What kind of action? One thing I’ve found effective is to tell the parent who is contemplating a move that if she moves to Missouri, you will too. You’ll move to the same neighborhood so that you can ensure that you’re close to the children and then move for joint physical custody and a modification of child support due to the change in circumstances.

Your most likely path to success may not lie in trying to seek vindication within the system

Finding a way to defeat your ex-wife machinations using methods that are legal but within your power to control may be the more effective way (in various ways, whether a matter of time, money, effort, frustration, and damage to your reputation and relationship with your children). Without other arguments going for you, it would be naive to hope to persuade the judge or commissioner that the kids are better off with Dad when the children spend less time with him than with Mom.

If you can’t makes sense of it, can you at least understand it? Yes.

The simple, if unpopular, fact is that generally courts favor the mothers in these situations. It’s not fair. It’s sexist. The courts find excuses for it anyway. And you have to remember that it’s not a matter of what you know to be the case or even what your ex-wife knows to be the case, but what you can prove to the court and what stories the court will and will not believe. Most (not all, but most) judges and commissioners in family law matters are shockingly inattentive and apathetic in these situations. They often shamelessly prejudge such cases and believe they have the whole thing worked out before they read your pleadings, if they read your pleadings.

I’ve seen many cases just like yours where the parents share joint custody, with one parent spending more time with the kids than the other (even if it’s just a few days or weeks), then one of the parents decides to relocate, and the heartbroken parent who’s not moving who is trying desperately to preserve the relationships with the kids and wondering why it is that one parent can just up and leave with impunity.

I hope I’ve explained adequately why it is that a person in your position is at a clear disadvantage. It’s not fair, but it’s reality. You need to know what you’re really dealing with (not what you appear to be dealing with on the surface) before you can react in any kind of successful way.

Please understand that I am not saying there is no hope. While you have several factors working against you, I’ve suggested how you might overcome those disadvantages.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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