Our current statute on relocation of minor children went into effect on October 1, 2006. The law applies only after custody orders have been entered either as part of a divorce judgment or between unmarried parents. If either parent files a motion to modify the custody orders on the basis of a relocation by either parent with the child, the court must first determine whether the move would have a substantial impact on the existing parenting plan. For example, a move by the parent with whom a child lives most of the time within the same school district would probably not affect most existing parenting arrangements, nor would a relocation from Hartford to Greenwich if the other parent lives in Los Angeles. But where both parents live within a couple of miles of each other and one plans to move 80 miles away, many parenting plans would be significantly affected.
If the court finds that the existing parenting arrangement would be significantly affected by the proposed relocation, the statute says that the relocating parent must prove that "(1) the relocation is for a legitimate purpose, (2) the proposed location is reasonable in light of such purpose, and (3) the relocation is in the best interests of the child."
In considering the child's best interests, the court should consider " (1) Each parent's reasons for seeking or opposing the relocation; (2) the quality of the relationships between the child and each parent; (3) the impact of the relocation on the quantity and the quality of the child's future contact with the non-relocating parent; (4) the degree to which the relocating parent's and the child's life may be enhanced economically, emotionally and educationally by the relocation; and (5) the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the non-relocating parent and the child through suitable visitation arrangements." These are the same factors adopted by the Connecticut Supreme Court in the Ireland case. However, the court's consideration is not limited to these factors. As with any family law case, the facts of the case may affect the outcome. Generally speaking, the Connecticut Courts have found that relocations for better employment for the parent or the parent's spouse are legitimate reasons. In some cases a relocation by a parent to be near extended family is a legitimate reason. Getting away from the other parent is usually not a legitimate reason in the absence of proven cases of family violence.
Compared with the case law prior to 2006, the current statute changed existing law on relocation in Connecticut in a couple of ways. Under the statute, the parent who is not moving no longer has the burden of proving that the move is not in the child's best interest. Instead the moving parent must prove that it is. In addition, the distinctions which have been drawn between parents having "primary residence," "shared custody," or "sole custody" are replaced by consideration of the actual parenting schedule and the child's relationship with both parents.
While our statute addresses only changes to existing court orders, a court is likely to apply similar considerations when a parent wants to move with a child or the parties during a divorce or custody proceeding. In either case, it is wide to seek advice before initiating a relocation proceeding.