When Justin filed his motion for modification in February 2009, he suggested that, as a result of his military service, he was likely to relocate some time after May 2011. Although Justin’s relocation may have seemed far away when he filed the motion for the modification, his anticipated move grew nearer as the superior court proceedings progressed. By the time the case went to trial, in May 2010, Justin’s relocation constituted a change of circumstances “relative to the facts and circumstances that existed” at the time the prior custody order was entered. Though the change‑of‑circumstances rule is “designed to discourage discontented parents from continually renewing custody proceedings,” parents should not be discouraged from planning ahead and seeking to modify custody arrangements in advance of an anticipated move. In numerous cases, we have concluded that an anticipated move satisfied the change‑of‑circumstances requirement. Indeed, to do otherwise could result in very harsh consequences for children (for example, if the non‑moving parent is actually unfit). Justin’s anticipated relocation, like Erica’s proposed move to Iowa, constituted a substantial change of circumstances in this case.
Laura Morgan is a Family Law Consultant. Laura is available for consultation, brief writing and research on family law issues throughout the country. She can be reached through her website. www.famlawconsult.com