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Relocation? Beware: The Landscape in Mississippi is Changing!

In the first two decades of my practice, I was able to confidently advise my clients that they had the right to move any where they wanted with their children. The Courts in most states, and certainly in Mississippi, favored a so-called Constitutional “right to travel.” In the intervening years, there have been many changes in the statutes and case laws of many states, some prohibiting changes in residence without court permission. Many states prohibit moving a child to another state, even if there is no court action pending and no court order in place. In Mississippi, there is no law preventing a parent from taking a child anywhere they want when there is no custody order in place.

Even though Mississippi has no statutes in place regarding relocation, it is clear that the landscape has changed regarding an unabridged right to move. This seems consistent with national trends. The recent case of McCullough v McCullough, No. 2008-CA-00029-COA (October 6, 2009) is illustrative of the point. In that case a “stay-at-home Mom” lost custody of her two young children. Among the factors involved were her attempt to take the children from Mississippi to Maine, after a divorce action was filed, but before any order was entered. When the matter of the move was brought to the Court’s attention by Motion of the Father, the Chancellor ordered the Mother to immediately return the children to Mississippi and granted temporary custody to the Father. There are many resources on this difficult topic. One excellent resource is the ABA Family Law Section’s Spring, 2006 issue of the Family Advocate which may be ordered by contacting Deborah Eisel at eisel@sbcglobal.net .