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Noncustodial father wants to stop mother's international move-away

Your Question:
We have been divorced for 2 years the divorce decree says that we have joint custody and she is the residential parent but know my ex wife met a guy from italy that works in a military base in turin and as been transfer in texas temporarily she wants to move in Texas and get married and then when her new husband to be contract expires in april of 2007 they wanna move in Italy permanently. what can I do to stop her.

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My Answer:

I asked you for additional information. You also let me know that the child is around 4 years old, speaks Italian and English, and is with you on alternating weekends and a mid-week dinner. You also noted that you're Italian, and the child's mother is American. You told me that you all currently live in Illinois.

Depending upon the competence of the attorney, the disposition of the judge, the latest move-away caselaw in your state; and your own ability to effectively raise a child; I think you may have a case.

I think your primary argument is that the wishes of the mother are not in the child's best interest. She's wanting to completely disrupt his life to move to TX, then immediately disrupt it again shortly thereafter to move to another country based upon plans to marry (i.e., it hasn't even happened yet). Meanwhile, this young child's relationship with the father starts to fall apart, unless the father starts following the mother around the globe.

I think your case would be weaker if your kid was a teenager. The paternal bond would be strong and could bear a few months in between seeing the father. But you've got a youngster, and nurturing that bond requires frequent contact.

So, here's my advice to you:

  • If you're not an ideal parent, become one immediately. This means keeping an appropriate and clean home, not doing drugs, not partying, not drinking and driving, knowing about child development, etc. Also, the more flexibility you have (e.g., job scheduling), the better for you.

  • Ask the mother for more time with the child immediately. Even an additional weekday would help you. She probably won't agree to anything, but ask her for more time with the child every couple months. Do it in writing (e.g., email) and keep copies of what you sent and her replies. If she consents, it makes it harder for a judge to rip the child away from you. If she refuses, you can show that this mother has NO intent of going out of her way to support the paternal bond.

  • Start researching experienced family law attorneys, specifically ones who have dealt with move-aways and prevailed in preventing a child from moving (and especially international move-aways). I suggest you may want to go to the Illinois Supreme Court website. Look at the "Opinions" section and do a search for "moveaways" and "move-aways". Skim through those opinions and see if you can find any case involving switching custody or residential parents upon a move-away. Note the names of the attorneys involved in such cases. Look them up (you can call the Illinois state bar). If they're near you, meet with them. If they're not near you, call them and ask if they know of any attorney in your county who is good for move-away issues.

This is one of those cases where if you're serious about making your best effort, you need a very experienced attorney who knows these issues.

Finally, one quick adjustment to your language. Your intent is not to stop your ex from moving wherever she wants. Your intent is to keep your son local, as it's in his best interest. Those are separate issues, so treat it as such. The court can only say where your son will live, but the court can't stop your ex from living wherever she wants.

Good luck.


This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.

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