Proposed Legislation Would Affect a Parent’s Right to Relocate With a Child (part 1 of a 2 part series on relocation)

If a parent who has parenting time more than 150 days a year wishes to relocate further away from the other parent (or outside the same school district), and if the Parenting Plan does not otherwise address how relocation will be handled, then N.H. RSA 461-A:12 will govern the relocation. Under the statute as it currently stands, the parent who wishes to relocate must give the other parent “reasonable notice” of the intended move, with 60 days considered reasonable absent extenuating circumstances.  Notice should be given in writing using a method that insures that delivery can be confirmed.  If the other parent objects and requests a hearing, then the Court must hold a hearing to determine whether or not relocation may occur.  In some instances, the Court may appoint a guardian ad litem to investigate the issues and weigh in on the relocation.

Proposed legislation, HB 1774, makes significant changes to the current law by prohibiting relocation without a court order (subject to a limited exception) and establishing much needed timelines for a hearing.  Under HB 1774, a parent may not relocate without a court order unless relocation is necessary to protect the child or the parent.  While relocation would still require 60 days’ notice, relocation to protect the safety of the child or parent may justify a shorter notice period.  This general relocation prohibition would go into effect as soon as a parenting or divorce petition is filed.

HB 1774 would permit either parent to request an emergency hearing to seek or prevent relocation.  The bill would also establish time frames for such a hearing to occur.  In an open parenting or divorce case, the court would be required to “hold a hearing within 30 days of the request.”  In closed cases being reopened to address the relocation request, then the court would be required to “hold a hearing within 30 days of service of the petition.”  At the court’s option, the initial hearing on relocation could be designated as a temporary or final hearing. A final hearing would be required to be scheduled no later than 60 days from the temporary hearing date.

On separate but related topic, HB 1774 would also require that Parenting Plans include a detailed schedule, “specifying the periods when each parent has residential responsibility” and would forbid either parent from being identified as the parent who has “primary” parenting time.  In essence, the parenting schedule would speak for itself.

If passed, HB 1774 would take effect 60 days after passage.

About the Author: Judith Fairclough 

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