If a big job change gives you the opportunity to move across the state, or across the country, would you do it? Would you bring your children with you? President Barack Obama recently announced that he and his family will remain in Washington “for a couple of years” because of his kids. Would you make the same choice?
On Thursday, March 3, 2016, with just under 11 months left in his presidency, Barack Obama confirmed that he and his wife Michelle would be staying in Washington, D.C., once his term was up. The reason: his daughter Sasha.
This is a highly unusual move. It has been decades since a past-president stayed in the capitol. But his reasons are solid. Sasha Obama is scheduled to graduate from Sidwell Friends School in spring 2018. According to the New York Times:
“Transferring someone in the middle of high school — tough,” the president said in response to a question from a woman at a restaurant here.
So President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are “going to have to stay” in Washington until then.
Relocating After Losing a Job Can Hurt Children
Most of us don’t get a year’s notice before we lose our job. Especially if the city you live in is facing hard economic times, it can be tempting to move on to greener pastures. But before you focus your job search elsewhere, think about what you are asking your family, especially your children to give up.
Stability is very important to the healthy development of a child. Moving out of a school district means shifts in schedules, loss of friends and support networks, and changes in teaching strategies. All that can hurt your child and set them behind in school. Before deciding to relocate after a job loss, try looking local. It could be better for your family.
Change of Residence in Family Law
From the looks of things, President Obama doesn’t need to worry about a divorce or custody battle any time soon. But 100,000s of marriages end in divorce every year. Thousands more are involved in custody, paternity, or support cases. If a court has jurisdiction over your children for any reason, you may have to head to the courthouse before accepting that out-of-state job offer.
The Importance of Custody Labels
If you have sole legal and sole physical custody of your child, you are free to move about the country. You are not required to file a motion before moving your child out of state. But if your co-parent has been awarded any kind of custody – legal or physical, sole or joint – you may need to file a Motion for Change of Residence before you move. If your co-parent agrees with your decision to move out of state, you can just provide a written agreement to the court. Otherwise, your move will be up to the judge.
Proving Best Interests
Your Family Court judge will decide whether your Motion for Change of Residence (formerly Change in Domicile) is in the best interest of your child based on several factors:
- Whether the move will improve you and your children’s quality of life;
- How well you and the noncustodial parent have worked with the existing parenting time order and whether you are moving to try to interfere with your coparent’s visitation;
- Whether there is a satisfactory alternative parenting time schedule available;
- Whether your co-parent is objecting to avoid a change in child support; and
- Whether domestic violence is involved.
Working Out Parenting Time
Almost every custody order or Judgment of Divorce includes a parenting time plan that gives the non-custodial parent visitation with his or her child. If you take your Motion for Change of Domicile to court, the judge will decide a new schedule that will help your children maintain their connection to the other parent. This schedule could include:
- Extended summer and holiday parenting time;
- Telephone, Snapchat, or videoconferencing parenting time;
- Parenting time whenever the noncustodial parent is able to visit.
You can also work this out with your co-parent ahead of time and include it in your written agreement. But if you don’t, and your move interferes with a non-custodial parent’s court-ordered parenting time schedule, you could be called back to Michigan to answer for it.
It is often better for your children to avoid after a divorce or job change. Just like President Obama, it could be worth it for you to decide to stay nearby until they graduate from high school. But if that isn’t an option, make sure you do your change of residence the right way. Contact Lisa J. Schmidt, a family lawyer at Schmidt Law Services, PLLC, in Ferndale, Michigan, to schedule a free consultation. She will help you take the right steps so you can move with a clear conscience.