Moving Out of State With Children: Tennessee’s Relocation Laws

Navigating the complexities of parental relocation can be stressful for any family, especially when the custodial parent asks — can I move out of state with my child? Moving a child away from a parent causes significant shifts in family dynamics and is a process the courts take seriously. Understanding the legal requirements and the necessary burden of proof the court requires is crucial for any parent considering moving out of state with custody.

In Tennessee, the law sets clear guidelines for parents planning to relocate with minor children, ensuring both parents have a say in the decision. This involves a mandatory written notice from the relocating parent and a window where the non-relocating parent can oppose the move.

Continue reading as we explore Tennessee’s parental relocation laws to help parents better navigate this challenging process.

The Legal Requirements for Parental Relocation

In Tennessee, when a custodial parent contemplates moving out of state, the law mandates a structured approach to ensure the rights of all parties are considered. This raises questions like “Can a custodial parent move out of state?” or “Can I leave the state with my child?” The simple answer is yes but with significant legal caveats.

First, the parent planning the move — whether they have full custody, joint custody, or are the primary residential parent — must provide the other parent with a written notice at least 60 days before relocating, regardless of whether a parent wishes to move a child out of state for personal, economic, or other reasons. The notice must include the intended new residence, reasons for the move, and a notification that the other parent has the right to oppose the relocation within 30 days.

This process addresses situations where a parent with full custody or joint custody considers moving out of state custody into a new jurisdiction. It ensures that the non-relocating parent is not left in the dark about significant changes that could affect their parental rights and the child’s well-being.

While Tennessee law does allow for the possibility of relocation, it emphasizes the need for transparency and fairness, ensuring that the move is in the best interest of the child and respects the rights of the other parent. This legal framework is designed to prevent one parent from making unilateral decisions in sensitive family matters, highlighting the importance of cooperation and communication between parents.

How to Oppose a Relocation

If a non-relocating parent in Tennessee disagrees with the other parent’s decision to move a child out of state, the law provides a clear pathway for opposing the move. Upon receiving the relocation notice, the opposing parent has a 30-day window to file a petition in court expressing their disagreement. This step triggers a legal review process to assess the relocation’s impact on the child’s welfare and the rights of the parent opposing the move.

The court’s role is to evaluate the pros and cons of a move, taking into consideration the child’s best interests, the reasons for and against the relocation, and the potential effects on the child’s relationship with both parents. This procedural step is vital for maintaining balance and fairness in relocation disputes. It offers a formal avenue for parents to contest decisions they believe may not favor their child’s well-being.

What the Court Considers When Reviewing Relocation Cases

When a Tennessee court reviews a petition opposing a parent’s relocation, it begins a thorough examination centered on the child’s best interests and the specifics of the parental relationships. A critical factor in this evaluation is determining the amount of time the child spends with each parent. If the parent seeking to relocate is the primary caregiver, having the child for the majority of the time, the law initially leans in favor of allowing the move. This presumption, however, is not indisputable.

The opposing parent can challenge the relocation by demonstrating one of three things:

  • The move lacks a reasonable purpose.
  • It poses a serious threat of harm to the child.
  • It’s motivated by a desire to disrupt the other parent’s relationship with the child.

If any of these grounds are proven justifiable, the court shifts its focus to a deeper analysis of whether the relocation aligns with the child’s best interests, considering factors like stability, community ties, and the ability to maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents. This approach ensures that decisions are made with the child’s welfare as the primary concern.

Factors that Work Against Relocation

In relocation disputes, as illustrated by Mackey v. Mayfield, a case the Tennessee Court of Appeal decided, the court meticulously examines the reasons behind the proposed move.

Not every rationale for relocation is deemed reasonable under Tennessee law. The court looks for solid evidence that the move serves a legitimate purpose, benefiting either the economic situation or the overall well-being of the relocating parent and child.

In Mackey, the court found the stated reasons for moving — a need to care for a relative and the hope of better job prospects — were insufficiently substantiated by credible evidence, such as a firm job offer or a compelling explanation of how the moving parent’s economic situation would improve.

Additionally, the court will seek to determine the potential impact on the child’s stability and relationships before approving a relocation. If a move threatens to sever or significantly reduce the child’s connections with one parent, relatives, or community, a relocation may not be considered in the child’s best interest.

The court’s ruling against the moving parent in Mackey underscores the importance of demonstrating that relocation will not only maintain but potentially enhance the child’s life, emphasizing that the child’s needs and stability are paramount in any relocation decision.

Need Help Answering the Question — Can I Move Out of State with my Child?

Navigating parental relocation requests in Tennessee requires a careful balance of legal knowledge and respect for all parties involved while remaining focused on the child’s best interests. The law sets clear guidelines for proposing, opposing, and evaluating relocations, ensuring that each parent’s rights are considered alongside the child’s well-being.

If you’re dealing with a relocation request, our experienced family lawyers at MHPS can help. With our expertise, you can confidently navigate this complex process, ensuring your child’s best interests are protected. Contact MHPS today for guidance and support tailored to your family dynamic.

Child Relocation FAQs

  • Can a custodial parent move out of state with a child in Tennessee? Yes, a custodial parent can move out of state with a child in Tennessee. However, they must follow specific legal requirements, including providing the non-relocating parent with a written notice at least 60 days before the move.
  • How can a non-relocating parent oppose a child’s relocation in Tennessee? If a non-relocating parent disagrees with the other parent’s decision to move a child out of state, they have a 30-day window to file a petition in court expressing their disagreement. The court will then assess the relocation’s impact on the child’s welfare and the rights of the opposing parent.
  • What factors does the Tennessee court consider when reviewing parental relocation cases? The Tennessee court considers the child’s best interests, the reasons for and against the relocation, and the potential effects on the child’s relationship with both parents. It also assesses the amount of time the child spends with each parent and whether the move serves a reasonable purpose or poses a threat to the child.
  • What can work against a parent’s relocation request in Tennessee? Reasons for relocation must be substantiated with credible evidence, such as job offers or improved economic situations. The court also looks at the potential impact on the child’s stability and relationships, ensuring that the move will not harm the child’s well-being.

Categories: Family Law
Previous Post
How to Make Your Funeral Wishes Known
Next Post
Is Tuition Considered Child Support? Who Pays for Extracurriculars?