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We’re not married, so can I just move away with the kids?

A lot of people are still unaware that Nevada changed its law back on October 1, 2015 under Assembly Bill 263, requiring a parent to either obtain the permission of the other parent or the court before relocating with his/her child to another state. The same also applies to relocations within Nevada where the distance would "substantially impair the ability of the other parent to maintain a meaningful relationship with the child." It does not matter if you are not married to the other parent or have no existing custody order in place. You still have to get either the other parent’s permission or the court’s permission before you can move away with your child. If you fail to do so, you can face felony charges. An exception to seeking permission first is if you can convince the court that you moved with your child to protect yourself or your child from domestic violence.

The main change is that the law now gives each parent joint legal and physical custody of a child by default, unless a court order provides otherwise, whether the parents are married or not. Formerly, an unmarried mother was presumed to have primary custody over her child absent some court order to the contrary. NRS 125C.001 enumerates the State’s policy “to ensure that minor children have frequent associations and a continuing relationship with both parents after the parents have ended their relationship, become separated or dissolved their marriage.” Thus, these new changes are in accordance with that policy by assuring that one parent cannot simply run away with his/her child, depriving the other parent of the opportunity to object first.

As the law spells out in NRS 125C.007, a parent must demonstrate to the court that the following factors exist in his/her petition to relocate with his/her child:

  1. There exists a sensible, good-faith reason for the move, and the move is not intended to deprive the non-relocating parent of his or her parenting time;
  2. The best interests of the child are served by allowing the relocating parent to relocate with the child; and
  3. The child and the relocating parent will benefit from an actual advantage as a result of the relocation.

If the parent demonstrates the above factors, then the court will consider the following:

  1. The extent to which the relocation is likely to improve the quality of life for the child and the relocating parent;
  2. Whether the motives of the relocating parent are honorable and not designed to frustrate or defeat any visitation rights accorded to the non-relocating parent;
  3. Whether the relocating parent will comply with any substitute visitation orders issued by the court if permission to relocate is granted;
  4. Whether the motives of the non-relocating parent are honorable in resisting the petition for permission to relocate or to what extent any opposition to the petition for permission to relocate is intended to secure a financial advantage in the form of ongoing support obligations or otherwise;
  5. Whether there will be a realistic opportunity for the non-relocating parent to maintain a visitation schedule that will adequately foster and preserve the parental relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent if permission to relocate is granted; and
  6. Any other factor necessary to assist the court in determining whether to grant permission to relocate.

As always with custody matters, the court will still determine whether the relocation would be in the "best interests of the child."

Thus, know your legal rights and obligations prior to moving with your child, so that you can avoid criminal charges or hurting your chances in any future custody case where disregarding the law could count against you.