One of the most difficult issues for parents, the court, and practitioners is how to address placement and custody issues when one parent seeks to move with the children to another state or more than 150 miles away from the other parent. Wis. Stats. Sec. 767.481 provides the procedures, framework, and standards the court must follow when one parent proposes to move.
A parent who wishes to establish legal residence with the child in another state or more than 150 miles from the other parent must send an appropriate notice by certified mail to the other parent stating the specific date and location of the proposed move, with a copy to the court. The other parent then has fifteen days to object. If there is no objection, the moving parent has the right to make the move. If the parent objects within the statutory fifteen days, a parent may not move with the child until the court resolves the issue. The parent seeking to move can request a temporary order under Wis. Stats. Sec. 767.225(1)(bm).
When a parent proposes to move, it is the objecting parent’s burden to prove that the move is not in the best interests of the child. Under Wis. Stats. Sec. 767.481(5)(a), the court considers whether the purpose of the move is reasonable. The court also considers the nature and extent of the child’s relationship with the other parent; what disruption the move would have on that relationship; the child’s adjustment to the current living situation; and whether alternative arrangements could foster a continuing similar relationship with the other parent. The court, however, cannot consider video conferencing or other electronic communication as a means to continuing the relationship with the other parent.
The provisions of the move-away statute apply to divorce cases. In paternity cases, there is an ongoing debate regarding whether the statute applies. Some judges apply it in paternity cases; others do not.