Ask A Lawyer: Can She Take My Kids 500 Miles Away?


Urgent in NY – I have been divorced for over two years and have been paying 8k/month in CS and 4k/month in maintenance. My bonus this year was paid mostly in stock that will not vest for another three years so my cash flow was severely hampered. I stopped paying the maintenance 3 months ago and have continually tried to renegotiate with my ex to find a solution. We have three little boys and she does not work.

In short, I was just sent a certified letter from a lawyer that she will take me to court to allow her to move to another state 500 miles away if I do not allow her to. It is written in our divorce agreement that she cannot move more than 30 miles away. I have an extremely close relationship with my boys and they have been sleeping over for OEW and Wed nights for many years. I live 5 minutes from them now.

My question is – does my recent suspension of the maintenance payments have a bearing? She is claiming financial hardship and that she will be able to find work easier in the new state. I am considering filing for custody or should I negotiate with her financially? For me, it is not an option to have my boys 500 miles away. I coach their teams, help with homework, do cub scouts etc.   Please help asap – the letter says I have one more week to respond.



Unfortunately, our AskALawyer forum is not designed to provide immediate responses and is not a substitute for consulting an attorney in your state.  In circumstances requiring immediate legal assistance, you should consult a qualified family law attorney in your state. 

Your failure to pay spousal maintenance should not have a direct bearing on the removal of your children, but may affect the court’s determination as to your credibility when you have not followed an existing court order.  If you are unable to continue to pay the ordered maintenance amount, you must determine if a modification petition can be pursued to address the issue.  If you require a temporary abatement, you may be able to pursue such with the court.

The issue of your wife wanting to move your children away from you should be determined upon the best interests of the children, including the disruption of your significant involvement with them.  Without a complete review of your divorce and current status of your wife, it is difficult to understand why she would need to move to obtain a job when she is receiving such significant child support and, unless modified, maintenance.  The issue of moving children can be complicated and prompt involvement of an attorney experienced in child removal cases is critical.


Richard Coffee is a Litigation Manager in the Belleville Illinois office of Cordell & Cordell. He is an experienced divorce attorney whose practice is devoted to domestic litigation. He is licensed in the State of Illinois and is admitted to practice law in the U.S. District Courts for Northern, Central and Southern Illinois.

Mr. Coffee has extensive domestic litigation trial experience representing clients in courts throughout Illinois on all aspects of domestic litigation, including the representation of clients who are current or retired military personnel with issues under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, clients involved in state court jurisdictional disputes due to the relocation of one or both parties from or to Illinois, and clients with government or private pension benefit valuation and division issues. 

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