Relocating a Child Subject to a Custody Order

There are many common reasons why a parent may want to change residence and relocate with a child. With the economic changes brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, there is an increased incidence of employment-related reasons — and other new reasons — for a parent wanting or needing to move. If a court order governs custody of a child, the parent must satisfy specific statutory requirements before moving the child in many situations. A parent who fails to do so may risk criminal prosecution.

When Does the Nevada Parental Rights Protection Act Govern Relocation of a Child?

In 2015, the Nevada legislature enacted a law called the Parental Rights Protection Act. Based on the state’s policies for fostering parent-child relationships and valuing the best interests of the child as paramount in custody matters, the statute governs relocation of a child subject to a custody order in two circumstances.

The law imposes specific requirements in all cases when a parent wishes to move a child out of Nevada. The rules also apply to a move within the state if the move is to a place that is at a distance that would “substantially impair the ability of the other parent to maintain a meaningful relationship with the child.”

Two different sections of the statute establish the requirements, depending on whether the parent wishing to relocate has primary custody or joint custody of the child. The rules are basically the same, except that a situation involving joint custody has a special additional requirement.

What Does the Parental Rights Protection Act Require?

When a parent with primary custody wishes to move a child outside the state, or the relocation within Nevada meets the statutory criteria (which may be an issue that a judge ends up deciding), the relocating parent must attempt to obtain the written consent of the non-relocating parent. If the non-relocating parent refuses consent, the relocating parent must petition the court for permission to relocate with the child. These actions must be taken prior to relocating the child.

If parents have joint physical custody of a child pursuant to a court order, the relocating parent must attempt to obtain the written consent of the non-relocating parent. If the parent refuses consent, the relocating parent must petition the court for permission to relocate and ask the court to grant the relocating parent primary physical custody of the child.

In either custody situation, the court may award reasonable attorney’s fees and costs to the relocating parent if the non-relocating parent refuses consent without a reasonable basis or to harass the relocating parent. A parent who relocates without following the statutory requirements may be charged with a crime under Nevada criminal law (NRS 200.359).

Petitioning the Court for Permission to Relocate a Child

Provisions of the Parental Rights Protection Act govern court consideration of a petition for permission to relocate by a parent with primary or joint custody. The relocating parent must demonstrate to the court that:

  1. The move is in the child’s best interests.
  2. There is a good-faith, sensible reason for relocating, and the move is not intended to deprive the other parent of parenting time.
  3. Relocation will actually benefit the relocating parent and child.

The law specifically provides that burden of proving that the move is in the child’s best interest is on the relocating parent. If the relocating parent succeeds in meeting all three requirements, the court then must evaluate additional enumerated factors and their effect on the child and each parent.

The additional factors include the likelihood that relocating will improve the child’s and parent’s quality of life; the motives of the relocating parent and of a non-relocating parent who resists the relocation request; the ability of the relocating parent to comply with visitation terms after relocation; and the opportunity for a meaningful parental relationship between the non-relocating parent and the child following relocation. The court may also consider any other factors necessary to determining whether to grant the request for permission to relocate.

The non-relocating parent may oppose the petition for permission to relocate and present evidence to the court to support the opposition.

Legal Representation for Relocating and Non-Relocating Parents

For parents whose children are subject to a custody order, relocation requests often present difficult, emotional issues for both the relocating and non-relocating parent. If you are a parent on either side of a relocation request, assistance from an experienced family law attorney is essential to help you navigate through the legal process.

If you are a relocating parent, you must be careful to abide by all the statutory requirements to avoid risking criminal charges. A knowledgeable lawyer can help you understand the requirements and assist you in securing written consent from the other parent. If the other parent opposes the move and defends against the petition for court approval, representation by a capable attorney is necessary to present your best case and provide supporting evidence to the court.

If you are a non-relocating parent wishing to oppose a petition for relocation, having a skillful lawyer represent you provides your best chance of success. The provisions of the statute governing court consideration of the request are very specific. You must provide evidence relating to the criteria that the judge takes into account before ruling on the request. That requires following specific court and evidentiary rules, which is not something you should undertake to do on your own.

Talk With an Experienced Las Vegas Family Law Attorney About Child Relocation

At The Gersten Law Firm, we assist clients in complying with the requirements of the Nevada Parental Rights Protection Act concerning relocation of a child and other issues involved in relocation cases. We help relocating parents and non-relocating parents wishing to defend against a relocation petition.

Experienced family law attorney Joseph Gersten understands the sensitivity and emotional aspects of child relocation for parents. He approaches every family law case with compassion and understanding, as well as dedication to protecting the interests and rights of the client.

The Gersten Law Firm does not charge for your initial consultation. We serve clients in Las Vegas, Henderson, and elsewhere in Clark County. Call us at 702.857.8777 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.

Categories: Nevada Family Law