Safe to move out of state?

I am a single father wanting to know the legalities of moving out of state with my 2 children. This may be a long initial post in an effort to include as much information as possible to be clear as I can, so please bear with me.

My ex and I were together for 10 yrs, never married. We have 2 children, an 8yr old daughter and a 4yr old son. While we were together, for the most part I was the primary caregiver, in that I cooked 90% of the meals, we ate as a family, and when I lost my job back in 2009 (and started going to college online) and my ex started working, I was the one staying home with both children, walking my daughter to and from the bus top, making lunches, giving them baths, helping with homework, etc. We split up in late 2012 (Sept-Oct, I believe), our lease was up at the home we rented together (end of Feb 2013) and we went our separate ways, the kids initially going with her. I moved in with my grandmother and she immediately jumped into another relationship and got another rental house with (what would later be revealed to be an abuser) another man that had alcohol, drug (< which she also developed herself) and anger issues, punching holes in walls and screaming at her in front of my children and at them as well. For the first 4 months of 2013 I didn’t even know where my kids were. It wasn’t until the abuse escalated to a point that she feared for our kid’s safety that she sought me out to have them come to live with me (May 2013) where I was, and they’ve been here with me ever since.

Since that time I have continued being the primary caregiver like before, driving her to school, picking her up from school, paying for field trips, school uniforms, her lunches, homework, involving her in extracurricular activities, making all food, buying clothes, celebrating birthdays, taking them to the park - everything for both of them, you name it. At one point Mecklenburg County DSS was involved because while in their mother’s care there were excessive tardies and absences, and she was even cited for being HOURS late on several occasions to pick her up from her school. DSS came to my home to inspect living conditions, food supply, and verify that I was going to get her to school/pick her up on time and that I work and pay for/was responsible for all the things mentioned previously. Their mother has become homeless, sofa and floor surfing with coworkers or whatever other acquaintances she meets working as a stripper. She does many different drugs, from ecxtacy to prescription pills to cocaine, alcohol and marijuana. Currently as it stands she visits with the kids about once a month, if that. There has been numerous attempts on my behalf to mend our issues and be a family again. When things fall apart with the men she is seeing/using to have a place to stay, she’ll come to me saying she wants to make things right, and says all things wonderful to me and our kids about being whole, only to disappear after 2wks or so without notice or a trace. She gets our kids (and my) hopes up and then crushes them to the ground repeatedly, the last incident of this kind being 2 Fridays ago. She has no place for them to be because she doesn’t even have one for herself.

The mental and emotional wear and tear on us is torture of the worst kind. I have to hear my kids asking, “Where’s our mommy?”, with “I don’t know, honey…” being the only answer I can honestly give to them. With all that being said, I feel as if the three of us need a fresh start in a new setting. I have been considering moving out of state but I don’t really know what the rules and legal parameters are concerning this. What kids of things would I need to do before something like this is clear for me to do? Do I need a court order allowing me to leave? Say, petition for full custody? Would that legally allow me to relocate wherever I have an opportunity to root somewhere else? Any help is appreciated in advance. Thanks.

This is a complex question and your best bet would be to schedule a consultation with an attorney to talk through all the possible scenarios, although I will provide some thoughts on your situation here. First, as there is no legal order or agreement on custody in place, there is nothing that prevents you from moving with the children. That being said, right now North Carolina is the home-state of the children for jurisdictional purposes so once you move, you should be prepared for your ex to file a complaint for child custody in North Carolina. There is always a chance that your ex won’t be proactive and file for custody, but I would prepare for that just in case. If you end up having a hearing on child custody, all of the factors you have shared about being the primary caregiver, your ex’s history of drug abuse, exposing the children to abuse, and general lack of responsibility will be factors the judge will find compelling. If you have good reasons for your move out of state (ie, better job opportunity, the relocation will result in the children being closer to family, etc.), the judge will also find this compelling. The bottom line is, there is no legal hurdle preventing you from moving with the children, but be prepared for a potential suit for child custody.

Thank you so much for your reply. I now have some inkling of the direction I need to pursue. I’ll use this information to make the best decision for my children and myself.

She did it again, called around 11/09 and said it was for real this time. That she wants to never be apart again, is tired of a sex/drugs lifestyle, wants to re-build our family and always be there for me and our kids. She agreed to stay at-home while I work(<my idea) and made plans to get a place of our own with what I earn from my job, in combination with income tax returns from early next year. Needless to say, as history would have it- she left again, taking all of her things with her on Tues. November 19th, while I was at work. She also stole/took with her our daughter’s certified birth certificate that I bought back in August and still have the receipt for. On 11/25 during a texting squabble over her parents inviting me to their home for Thanksgiving with our children (and her not wanting me to be present because she wants the new “boyfriend” to be in tow) she said a lot of mean, hurtful and very threatening things, to the effect of: if I showed up for dinner on the holiday that she would make sure I “hurt” and threatened me bodily harm. I have the texts saved as proof. Is a restraining order applicable here? What can I do about the theft of my daughter’s legal documentation? Also, can I press charges for communication of threats? The messages I got from her are incredibly graphic, appalling and completely over the top…

You can certainly pursue a domestic violence restraining order pursuant to Chapter 50(b) if she is threatening bodily harm. We provide plenty of information about how to obtain a DVPO on our Domestic Violence Center.