How to Move Out of State As a Single Mom?

Being a single mom is stressful, to put it mildly. But doing so without a village, in an area with expensive housing, or someplace she cannot find a job makes it nearly impossible. For any number of reasons, single moms need or want to move out of state. Is that even allowed?

Generally speaking, the best way for single moms to move out of state with their child is to get written permission from the father prior to moving. Without such permission, expect a few hurdles.  If any custody orders exist for the child, the mother will need to get the court’s approval to move to a different state. If no orders are already in place, the father may still start a case and object to the move. 

Single moms should read on to learn what to expect when moving out of state with their child. The process varies depending on whether the other parent agrees or disagrees and whether a case already exists for the child. Unfortunately, the consequences of a premature move can be severe, so be sure to look before leaping.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for legal advice. Please consult a licensed attorney in your state if you have questions or believe you have a legal situation.

Can a Single Mom Move to Another State?

Whether or not a single mom has the freedom to move to another state is based on several factors. Each circumstance is different, but here are the main things to consider:

  • Is there already a custody order in place?
  • Is there an open custody or divorce case pending?
  • Does the other parent agree?

The ability and process to move out of state is different for each of these scenarios. Let’s take a look at each one more closely.

Can a Single Mom Move to Another State

Can a Mother Move if There is a Custody Order in Place?

If there is a custody order in place through any type of court case, make no firm commitments to move. A single mom must get an order from the court authorizing the move before moving. 

Custody orders regarding children, also called parenting time or allocation of parental responsibility orders, come through multiple types of cases. Parents may receive these orders through divorce cases, never-married custody cases, state-initiated child support cases, and dependency and neglect cases. 

Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act, the court retains jurisdiction over the child even when these cases are complete.

Sometimes the court order in place already speaks to the proposed relocation. This usually happens when the move is already on the horizon when obtaining original custody orders.

If the current order does not specifically address the relocation, the parent who wants to move will have to request the court’s permission. This is done by filing a motion for relocation or a motion to modify parenting time. 

Can a Mother Move if There is a Pending Case?

Moving out of state while any type of child custody case or divorce case is open is very risky. It is so frowned upon that some states, including California, Colorado, and Oklahoma, issue an automatic temporary injunction to prevent this very behavior.

The states that issue an automatic temporary injunction require that the parents maintain the status quo for the pendency of the case. They take effect upon filing for the initiating parent and upon receipt of service for the responding parent.

Even if a state does not automatically enter the prohibition against relocation, either parent can ask for one at any point in the case. 

If a parent moves out of state with the child, it can be a black mark in their column when it comes time for final orders. Anything that hints of withholding a child, or, even worse, kidnapping a child from the other parent is a major red flag to the court.

Of course, many single moms move out of necessity in these situations. Keep the knowledge of how the out-of-state move looks in mind and be prepared to mitigate it.

Can a Mother Move If the Other Parent Agrees?

The other parent’s consent makes the relocation much easier. The court gives much weight to any custody agreement that both parents can reach.

Ideally, the court only plays the decision-maker when parents cannot agree. Of course, if both parents propose a solution that is obviously not in the child’s best interest, the judge is unlikely to authorize it. 

Assuming the relocation is in the child’s best interest, the parents can file a stipulation to modify the custody order. A stipulation is an agreement signed by both parents and filed with the court.

The judge then reviews the stipulation and hopefully signs it. When the judge signs the stipulation, it is officially a court order. 

Upon obtaining that court order, the mother is free to move out of state with her child.

Can a Mother Move If the Child Doesn’t Have a Father?

Unfortunately, a common scenario is that a single mom needs to move and there is no father in the picture. There are a couple different ways this can play out.

Regardless of the status of the father, the mother must obtain permission for the move if any custody order exists. The mother files the motion to relocate, and if the father does not respond, she will likely get what she wants. 

If no custody orders are in place or are pending, then a single mother can move out of state without going through the court. Even if the father is on the birth certificate, either parent can move freely with the child until orders are in place.

Keep in mind this works both ways, and the father could just as easily take the child. Many parents prefer to obtain custody orders early in the child’s life to prevent the other parent from taking the child out of state. 

Additionally, remember that if one parent moves out of state, the other can still initiate a custody case. If started within 6 months of the move, the case will be in the old state pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act.

The lack of custody orders should not be treated as a loophole to engage in parental kidnapping.

How Can a Single Mother Request a Relocation?

Make the request to relocate in the child’s existing custody case. The request will usually take the form of a motion to modify child custody or a motion for relocation. 

Be sure to review your state’s laws regarding relocation. Many states set out a specific procedure or form needed to ask for a relocation. First, check your state-court website to get an idea of any resources, like forms or instructions, available. 

If no order is in place, a mother can open a custody case prior to moving if she needs or wants a court order. You may be wondering why anyone would choose to go to court if the other parent is not in the picture or causing a problem. Custody cases can be helpful in many ways.

In addition to parenting time orders, the court can also enter child support and decision-making orders. Child support orders can lead to some much-needed financial assistance from the other parent. 

Even if a mother wants nothing from the other parent, life will be easier with an order giving her clear sole-decision making. Most single moms run into the need for this type of order when their child needs a driver’s license or passport.

Starting a new case does take a rather long time to see from start to finish. On top of that, registering and moving the order to the new state is an extra set of steps. 

For these reasons, many people choose to wait until the new state has home-state jurisdiction over the child. A state acquires home-state jurisdiction after the child lives in that state for 6 months.

What Happens If the Other Parent Disagrees With the Relocation?

When the other parent disagrees with the relocation, expect that a judge will end up deciding whether you move. 

If no case is already open, the other parent one can initiate one in the child’s home state. Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act, the case will proceed in the child’s home state. The child must live in a state for six months for it to be considered the child’s home state.

For example, imagine that a mother moves with her child from New York to Florida. The father can still file a custody case in New York for up to six months after the move.

Then once a case is opened, or if it is already open, the court can determine the issue of relocation. To request a relocation, file a motion to relocate or a motion to modify the existing custody order.

The court may order mediation or let the matter proceed directly to a hearing. In mediation, parties attempt to reach a compromise.

When the court decides the issue of relocation, the judge issues an order, usually after a hearing. During the hearing, both parents get to present their perspective to the court. 

The court will apply the “best interests of the child” standard to the proposed relocation. Some factors the court will consider include:

  • Whether the other parent exercises parenting time;
  • The mother’s reasons for moving;
  • The child’s connection to school and community; and
  • The child’s access to extended family.

Be prepared to propose a new visitation schedule that includes the way travel will be supervised and paid for. 

What Happens If the Other Parent Disagrees With the Relocation

What Happens If a Single Mother Moves without a Court Order?

As with most court orders, what happens when they are violated depends on how severely consequences are pursued. With relocation cases, the other parent is the one seeking reparation for the violation of the order.

One should never violate a court order, intentionally or not. But if the other parent never brings the relocation to the court’s attention the moving parent is unlikely to experience consequences.

For cases where the relocation is hotly contested, someone who moves can expect a variety of consequences. The court reserves the right to issue bench warrants for those who violate court orders. 

In this worst-case scenario, the court issues an order for the return of the child to the home state. A parent who fails to cooperate with or follow this order can be subject to arrest. The other parent can also bring this type of order to the new state and request local enforcement. 

Even if nothing this severe happens, do know that this looks bad from the court’s perspective. Anything that hints of withholding the child from the other parent or interfering with the other parent’s time will concern the court.

To determine whether the relocation should happen, the judge applies the ‘best interests of the child’ standard. An important component of that determination is whether each parent can foster the child’s relationship with the other parent.

Preparing for a Relocation Hearing

Single moms who need or want to move out of state with their child should be prepared to advocate for themselves. While court procedure varies from state to state, there are a few general concepts that hold true everywhere. 

First and foremost, know that the hearing represents your chance to convince the judge to give you what you want. Unless you hire an attorney, it will be your responsibility to know the law and demonstrate how it applies to your case. 

To prove facts, call witnesses to testify or submit evidence like school or employment records and information. Most importantly, be prepared to make all of your points. Unfortunately, there are no do-overs if you remember something later. 

Relocation proceedings can be very stressful; a lot is on the line. Many parents struggle with the idea that the court can determine where they get to move.

Can a Mother Move to Another State without the Father’s Permission?

The court ultimately provides the final say regarding out-of-state relocations. This means that they can happen with or without the father’s permission.

A single mother will likely find that the relocation is more challenging without the father’s permission. Instead of a simple stipulation to the court when the father agrees, she will experience a longer, more arduous process.

How Do Single Moms Survive Financially?

Relocation often comes as a last resort for single moms struggling to survive financially. Those lucky enough to have a living family to provide child care particularly benefit from moving out of state.

Single moms are sometimes reluctant to file a custody case because of the restrictions that come with having the court involved. While those restrictions certainly exist, so too does the opportunity to get child support. 

Child support is calculated according to the statutory guidelines of each state. This means the manner of calculation is set in law. 

Visit the National Conference of State Legislatures to easily find the guidelines for your state.

There are three child support models states choose from when codifying their support calculation method. 

1.Income Share Model

This calculation is the most common one used by 41 states. The concept behind this model is that the child should be entitled to the same amount of support as if the parents were still in one household. It does not take into account the greater expenses parents each have as a result of living in two separate homes.

2.Percentage of Income Model

This one uses only the non-custodial parent’s income to calculate child support. Six states use this model. 

3.Melson Model

Only three states use the Melson Model. It is more complex than the other two. It uses the income shares model as the base, but it implements several public policy decisions to ensure each parent’s needs are met.

How to Move Out of State with Shared Custody?

Believe it or not, many families successfully navigate long-distance parenting. It works best when the parents have an amicable relationship and can facilitate the child’s communication with the other parent.

Life happens, and so does cross-country parenting. Parents need to move for work, for their new spouses, to find cheaper housing, and for many other reasons. 

As with all parenting plans, the parenting time schedules vary based on the child’s age. Parents of younger children not yet in school can have more success with monthly exchanges.

Otherwise, parents with school-age children are hampered by the school calendar. The most common arrangement is for the child to spend 1 to 3 months during the summer with the non-custodial parent.  The child may also travel for a week over winter break and/or spring break.

Ideally, the parents can remain flexible with each other so that more visits can happen depending on everyone’s schedule. Family finances, the child’s age, and everyone’s schedules are key variables that determine success. 

Families who can afford frequent plane tickets and whose children are old enough to fly alone will find shared custody easier to navigate. Additionally, parents who can work remotely or travel through the other parent’s city for work can get in extra face time with the child.

The order for relocation should allocate the costs for the child to travel to the non-custodial parent. The party requesting the move may be ordered to pay at least a portion, if not all, of the travel costs.

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Final Verdict

Single moms considering an out-of-state move should always be conscientious regarding the existence of a court order or case for any child involved. Failing to go through the proper steps of getting the court’s authorization can lead to stiff consequences for mom.

It can also give the other parent a leg up in any contested hearing, putting a single mom at an automatic disadvantage. You may be interested in our guide on how to move without a car.

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