Ask a Divorce Lawyer: Can we move our kids out of the country if there’s no custody order in place?

Question: My girlfriend lives in New York and has children from a previous marriage. There is currently no custody order in place. 

Would she be allowed to move out of the country with the children since there’s no order?



First, I must preface that I do not practice in New York.  Custody and placement laws vary from state to state.  Therefore, you should contact a domestic litigation attorney licensed in New York right away—definitely BEFORE deciding to move out of the country. 

Since your girlfriend’s children were born during a previous marriage, the divorce decree probably has some provisions relating to the custody and placement of the children.  Even if the father does not have placement rights, there may be a provision prohibiting her from moving the children a certain distance away. 

 In addition, most states have laws which require the custodial parent to provide the other parent with a notice of intent to move when he or she intends to move more than a certain number of miles away (dictated by the statute).  If he objects to the move, the Court would then review the custody and placement arrangements to determine whether or not the move is in the children’s best interest.


Erica Christian is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Wisconsin. She is a member of the Wisconsin Bar Association, the Family Law Section and the Children’s Law Section.

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