Relocation cases have been some of the most difficult cases I have handled in the Tennessee family law arena. A relocation case arises when a parent desires to move outside of Tennessee, or more than fifty miles away from the other parent. When this happens, the Tennessee relocation statute comes into play.
In essence, the Tennessee relocation statute requires the parent desiring to move outside of Tennessee or more than fifty miles from the other parent, to give notice of that desire. Except in rare instances, the notice must be mailed to the other parent by registered or certified mail no less than sixty days prior to the date of the intended move. If the parents cannot agree on the move and a new visitation schedule, the statute requires the non-relocating parent to file a petition in opposition to the removal of the child within thirty days of the receipt of the notice from the other parent.
The notice of intent to relocate must contain the following information:
Statement of intent to move;
Location of proposed new residence;
Reasons for proposed relocation; and
Statement that the other parent may file a petition in opposition to the move within thirty (30) days of receipt of the notice.
If the parents cannot agree on a new visitation schedule, the relocating parent must file a petition to modify the visitation schedule. In such a situation, the court will hold a hearing to determine how best to fashion an arrangement that will foster and continue the child's relationship with the other parent. In certain situations, the court can adjust child support to account for the costs of transporting the child for visitation.
If the non-relocating parent files a petition in opposition to the move, the court must hold a hearing to determine whether to allow the move. If no petition in opposition to the move is filed within the thirty day period, the parent desiring to relocate can go ahead and move. Nonetheless, there must still either be an agreement on a new visitation schedule or a court hearing to determine a new schedule.
The law makes a distinction between those situations where the parents are spending substantially equal time with the child and those situations where they are not. If the parents are spending substantially equal time with the child, the court will decide whether or not to allow the move based solely on what would be in the best interest of the child. In such a situation, the court does not give either parent an advantage.
In situations where the parents are not spending substantially equal time with the child, the primary residential parent is given an advantage. In such a case, the primary residential parent will be allowed to move, even over the objection of the other parent, unless the other parent can prove one of the following:
The relocation does not have a reasonable purpose;
The relocation would pose a threat of specific and serious harm to the child that outweighs the threat of harm to the child of a change of custody; or
The parent's motive for relocating with the child is vindictive in that it is intended to defeat or deter visitation rights of the non-custodial parent or the parent spending less time with the child.
Even if one of these factors exists, the court can still allow the move if the court finds the move would be in the best interest of the minor child.
If you desire to relocate outside the state of Tennessee or more than fifty miles from the other parent, whether or not you are the primary residential parent, you must comply with Tennessee’s relocation statute. Although Tennessee’s relocation statute is not overly complicated, it is important to understand it and follow its requirements to the letter. Not doing so could result in the loss of time with your child or the inability to move with your child.