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Know the Law: Relocating a Minor Child Out of New Hampshire

Written by: Jacqueline A. Leary (Botchman)

Published in the Union Leader (8/29/2021)

Q: Can I relocate my minor child out of the state of New Hampshire if I am divorced and share parenting time with my former spouse?

A: Maybe. It depends on the reason(s) for the move and if it is in the best interests of your child to relocate.

New Hampshire’s relocation statute, RSA 461-A:12, requires that the party who wishes to relocate provide reasonable notice to the other parent.  Even though “reasonable notice” may change depending on the special circumstances of each case, 60 days is presumed reasonable in a majority of cases.   The notice should be provided to the other party in writing.  Factors justifying shorter notice include, “relocation to protect the safety of the parent, child, or both, or relocation because the current abode is unavailable due to circumstances beyond the control of the parent.” RSA 461-A:12(3).

A parent’s ability to relocate is subject to the statute as well as the Supreme Court’s decisions interpreting the statute.  RSA 461-A:12(V)(a) & (b) places the initial burden upon the parent proposing relocation to prove that the relocation is for a “legitimate purpose” and that the proposed location is “reasonable in light of that purpose.” A legitimate purpose may exist for different reasons, including economic opportunities such as employment or the ability to be self-supportive, to be close to a support network, or for an educational opportunity for the parent or child.  See Matter of St. Pierre, 172 N.H. 209, 214 (2019).

In making such a determination of “reasonableness”, the Court's guiding principle must be the best interests of the children.  In the Matter of Pfeuffer and Pfeuffer, 150 N.H. 257, 260 (2003); In the Matter of Lockaby and Smith, 148 N.H. 462 (2002); Tomasko v. DeBuc, 145 N.H. 169 (2000). 

In determining whether a parent may relocate and whether the proposed relocation is in the best interests of the child, courts must evaluate the following criteria: 

  1. each parent’s reasons for seeking or opposing the move;
  2. the quality of the relationships between the child and the parents;
  3. the impact of the move on the quantity and quality of the child's future contact with the noncustodial parent;
  4. the degree to which the custodial parent's and child's life may be enhanced economically, emotionally, and educationally by the move;
  5. the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the noncustodial parent and child through suitable visitation arrangements;
  6. any negative impact from continued or exacerbated hostility between the parents;
  7. the effect that the move may have on extended family relations; and
  8. Any other factor the court deems relevant.

Pfeuffer, 150 N.H. at 260.  No one of the above factors may be presumed to be dispositive. Id.

If the judge does not think you are moving for a legitimate purpose or if the judge does not think that relocation is the best interests of your child, the Judge may deny your request to relocate.

Jacqueline Leary can be reached at [email protected].

Know the Law is a bi-weekly column sponsored by McLane Middleton.  Questions and ideas for future columns should be emailed to [email protected].  Know the Law provides general legal information, not legal advice.  We recommend that you consult a lawyer for guidance specific to your particular situation.

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