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What’s a reasonable purpose for relocating with a child?

It might surprise you to learn that the Tennessee Relocation Statute allows the parent with primary physical custody of a child to relocate more or less at will — unless the other parent objects and can prove to the court that there’s a good reason to deny the move.

This puts the burden on the objecting parent to prove that the move should be denied based on one of three reasons;

1. The move poses a threat of serious harm to the child.

2. The relocating parent is moving just to be vindictive in some way.

3. There is no reasonable purpose for the move.

The intention of the law was to make cases clearer and easier to decide whenever the court was forced to make the decision. For the most part, it succeeded — until recently.

The issue that caused trouble for one relocating father was a lower court’s definition of what constitutes a “reasonable purpose.” The child’s mother mostly worked abroad, while the child’s father had primary custody as he attended nursing school in Tennessee. After he graduated, the father was able to get a job in Arizona, his home state, where both his own relatives and his ex-wife’s relatives lived. The move would allow him to provide better financially for his child and give the child a family support system.

The mother objected to the move on the grounds that it didn’t serve a reasonable purpose because the father couldn’t prove that he’d been unable to find a suitable job where he was living in Tennessee. The lower court agreed.

Eventually the case found its way to the state’s Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has now clarified the meaning of the state’s Relocation Statute and sided with the father, stating that the term “reasonable purpose” used in the Statute should be given it’s “natural and ordinary meaning.” Under that rule, the father’s purpose for the move — to take a job near the child’s extended family — was sufficiently reasonable.

This is an important clarification for parents whether they are seeking to relocate with a child or to stop a relocation. The objecting parent has a high standard to meet in order to be successful.

For more advice on issues involving child custody and relocation, talk to an attorney today.

Source:, “Tennessee Relocation Statute Tenn. Code Ann. 36-6-108,” accessed March 24, 2017