New parental relocation statute in tennessee

Changes have been made to the Parental Relocation Statute, effective July 1, 2018. If you have a custody agreement or are involved in a family law dispute, it's important to know the new law.

parental relocation tennessee

Gone are the days when families lived in one house in the same town for their entire lives. We can look to the massive influx of families into the Nashville area to know things are changing. It’s not unreasonable to think one parent may need to move with their children after a divorce or after the issuance of a custody order.

THE ORIGINAL RELOCATION STATUTE

Previously, if one parent wanted to move out of state or more than fifty miles from the other parent, the parent wishing to relocate (whether they wanted to move the children with them or not) had to send a notice to the other parent by registered or certified mail. The letter must state:

  • 1) they intend to move,
  • 2) the location of their new residence,
  • 3) the reasons for the relocation, and
  • 4) a statement that the other parent may file a petition with the court opposing the relocation within thirty (30) days.

However, sometimes parents could not agree on the relocation and a new visitation schedule for the children. The court would have to determine whether the parent could relocate the children. Then, create a new Parenting Plan and visitation schedule. But ultimately, the court had to determine what was in the best interests of the children

THE NEW LAW FOR RELOCATION OF A CHILD

However, there is a new relocation statute that took effect on July 1, 2018. The Tennessee Legislature rewrote the parental relocation law so that the courts do not consider the amount of time each parent spends with the child when determining custody in cases where one parent desires to relocate.

Under the new law, parents must still send the written notice at least sixty (60) days prior to when they intend to relocate. However, now the notice must contain:

  • 1) a statement of the parent’s intent to move,
  • 2) the location of their proposed new residence,
  • 3) the reasons for the proposed relocation, and
  • 4) a statement that “absent an agreement between the parents or an objection by the non-relocating parent within thirty (30) days of the date that the notice is sent by registered or certified mail, the relocating parent will be permitted to do so by law”

There is a caveat. If the parents cannot agree on a new schedule within 30 days of the said notice or if the non-relocating parent objects to the relocation, the parent who wants to move must file a petition with the court seeking approval to relocate. If the other parent objects, they must file a response in opposition to the move within thirty (30) days. Only then will the court decide whether the relocation is in the best interests of the children, without regard for the amount of time either parent is spending with the child.

After the court goes through all the factors to determine whether the relocation is in the best interests of the children and the court finds the move is in the children’s best interests, the court will modify the parenting plan to account for the new distance between the parties. If the court finds that the relocation is NOT in the best interests of the children, the court will create a new parenting plan that becomes effective only if the relocating parent decides to move anyway.

OTHER CHANGES IN THE LAW

Most importantly, the statute applies not only in cases where there has already been a permanent parenting plan or final custody order.  It would also apply in ongoing cases where either the child custody or divorce statutory injunctions are already in place.

Finally, the new statute provides that either parent may recover their reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs from the other parent in the discretion of the court. However, as with any change in the law, we now must wait for the courts to interpret and apply the law.

If you wish to relocate with your child, are facing the relocation of your child, or your relocation petition has been denied, it’s always best to hire an experienced family law attorney. 

Bethany Peery Glandorf is an experienced family lawyer in Nashville and surrounding middle Tennessee. She received her J.D. from the University of Memphis, Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law and lives in Nashville with her husband, Tony, and dog, Teddy. 

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