Under Tennessee law, if a former spouse wants to relocate with minor children to a place more than 50 miles away from the other parent, she must give him 60 days advance written notice by certified mail. If he objects to the relocation, a court will determine whether to approve the proposed relocation.
If a former spouse remarries, and his or her new spouse lives out of state, will that fact, without more, be enough to support the relocation of the children? As reflected in the Tennessee Court of Appeals’ decision in Thorneloe v. Osborne, the answer is: No. Remarriage, standing alone, is not enough.
Critical to the outcome in these cases is the ability of the parent seeking to relocate to prove that relocation of the children is in the best interests of the children. Failure to present such proof will be fatal to the relocation request.
In Thorneoloe, the parties divorced after a seven-year marriage. They had two daughters, ages 7 and 10. The mother was designated Primary Residential Parent with 200 days a year of parenting time. Two years after the divorce, the father, who was in the military, moved to Ashville, NC so that he could be close to where the children resided with their mother in Tennessee.
Two years later, the mother remarried, and notified the father that she intended to move to Wisconsin with her new husband and the children. The father opposed the relocation.
At trial, the court denied the mother’s request to relocate, finding that it was not in the children’s best interests. Further, the court actually increased the father’s parenting time, and reduced his child support obligation. The court also awarded attorneys’ fees to the father.
The mother appealed, but lost again. The Court of Appeals noted that, although the mother had testified that the proposed move to Wisconsin would enable the children to have better housing and go to better schools, access to more family support and a higher standard of living, she had offered no independent or objective proof of those matters. That left her with only her desire to move the children to the place where she wanted to live with her new husband. The Court of Appeals held that remarriage, standing alone, is not enough to justify parental relocation, and that there was no evidence that the mother’s new husband could not move to Tennessee.
The bottom line: Just because you get remarried to someone who lives out of state will not be enough to allow you to relocate with the children from your prior marriage. You must be able to prove that the relocation is in the children’s best interests.