Often after divorce, one or both parents decide to relocate from the area where they resided as a couple. Job opportunities, new spouses and changing needs commonly result in both short and long distance relocations. Unfortunately, relocation impacts the ability of parents to share time with their children. When parents reside in different states, joint physical custody is no longer possible. It is expensive to transport children between states, and frequent long distance travel is contrary to the children’s stability, safety and well-being. Utah Code Ann. §30-3-37 provides guidelines for parents in the event that one or both of them intend to relocate following divorce.
Pursuant to Utah Code 30-3-37, a parent who desires to relocate must provide 60 days advance written notice to the other parent. The other parent has the right to request a hearing, where the court will determine whether it is in the children’s best interests to relocate. All individuals have a constitutional right to move between states, so the court has two options. The court will either find that it is in the best interests of the children to move with the relocating parent, or the court will order that the children remain with the other parent in the state of Utah.
Utah Code Ann. §30-3-37 provides a standard parent-time schedule and allocates transportation costs for parents residing more than 150 miles apart. In the event of relocation, the non-custodial parent is entitled to parent-time on alternating Thanksgiving, spring break, winter break and fall break holidays. Transportation costs for holiday parent-time are paid by the parent who relocated. The non-custodial parent is also entitled to one-half (1/2) of the children’s summer vacation every year, with transportation costs for summer parent-time split equally between both parents. At his/her own option and cost, the non-custodial parent may elect to exercise parent-time on one weekend every month – generally the last weekend of the month.
(1) For purposes of this section, “relocation” means moving 150 miles or more from the residence of the other parent.
(2) The relocating parent shall provide 60 days advance written notice of the intended relocation to the other parent. The written notice of relocation shall contain statements affirming the following:
(a) the parent-time provisions in Subsection (5) or a schedule approved by both parties will be followed; and
(b) neither parent will interfere with the other’s parental rights pursuant to court ordered parent-time arrangements, or the schedule approved by both parties.
(3) The court shall, upon motion of any party or upon the court’s own motion, schedule a hearing with notice to review the notice of relocation and parent-time schedule as provided in Section 30-3-35 and make appropriate orders regarding the parent-time and costs for parent-time transportation.
(4) In a hearing to review the notice of relocation, the court shall, in determining if the relocation of a custodial parent is in the best interest of the child, consider any other factors that the court considers relevant to the determination. If the court determines that relocation is not in the best interest of the child, and the custodial parent relocates, the court may order a change of custody.
(5) If the court finds that the relocation is in the best interest of the child, the court shall determine the parent-time schedule and allocate the transportation costs that will be incurred for the child to visit the noncustodial parent. In making its determination, court shall consider:
(a) the reason for the parent’s relocation;
(b) the additional costs or difficulty to both parents in exercising parent-time;
(c) the economic resources of both parents; and
(d) other factors the court considers necessary and relevant.
(6) Unless otherwise ordered by the court, upon the relocation, as defined in Subsection (1), of one of the parties the following schedule shall be the minimum requirements for parent-time with a school-age child:
(a) in years ending in an odd number, the child shall spend the following holidays with the noncustodial parent:
(i) Thanksgiving holiday beginning Wednesday until Sunday; and
(ii) Spring break, if applicable, beginning the last day of school before the holiday until the day before school resumes;
(b) in years ending in an even number, the child shall spend the following holidays with the noncustodial parent:
(i) the entire winter school break period; and
(ii) the Fall school break beginning the last day of school before the holiday until the day before school resumes;
(c) extended parent-time equal to 1/2 of the summer or off-track time for consecutive weeks. The children should be returned to the custodial home no later than seven days before school begins; however, this week shall be counted when determining the amount of parent-time to be divided between the parents for the summer or off-track period; and
(d) one weekend per month, at the option and expense of the noncustodial parent.
(7) The noncustodial parent’s monthly weekend entitlement is subject to the following restrictions.
(a) If the noncustodial parent has not designated a specific weekend for parent-time, the noncustodial parent shall receive the last weekend of each month unless a holiday assigned to the custodial parent falls on that particular weekend. If a holiday assigned to the custodial parent falls on the last weekend of the month, the noncustodial parent shall be entitled to the next to the last weekend of the month.
(b) If a noncustodial parent’s extended parent-time or parent-time over a holiday extends into or through the first weekend of the next month, that weekend shall be considered the noncustodial parent’s monthly weekend entitlement for that month.
(c) If a child is out of school for teacher development days or snow days after the children begin the school year, or other days not included in the list of holidays in Subsection (6) and those days are contiguous with the noncustodial parent’s monthly weekend parent-time, those days shall be included in the weekend parent-time.
(8) The custodial parent is entitled to all parent-time not specifically allocated to the noncustodial parent.
(9) In the event finances and distance preclude the exercise of minimum parent-time for the noncustodial parent during the school year, the court should consider awarding more time for the noncustodial parent during the summer time if it is in the best interests of the children.
(10) Upon the motion of any party, the court may order uninterrupted parent-time with the noncustodial parent for a minimum of 30 days during extended parent-time, unless the court finds it is not in the best interests of the child. If the court orders uninterrupted parent-time during a period not covered by this section, it shall specify in its order which parent is responsible for the child’s travel expenses.
(11) Unless otherwise ordered by the court the relocating party shall be responsible for all the child’s travel expenses relating to Subsections (6)(a) and (b) and 1/2 of the child’s travel expenses relating to Subsection (6)(c), provided the noncustodial parent is current on all support obligations. If the noncustodial parent has been found in contempt for not being current on all support obligations, the noncustodial parent shall be responsible for all of the child’s travel expenses under Subsection (6), unless the court rules otherwise. Reimbursement by either responsible party to the other for the child’s travel expenses shall be made within 30 days of receipt of documents detailing those expenses.
(12) The court may apply this provision to any preexisting decree of divorce.
(13) Any action under this section may be set for an expedited hearing.
(14) A parent who fails to comply with the notice of relocation in Subsection (2) shall be in contempt of the court’s order.