Whether you have a divorce decree that details custody terms or only a custody order because you and your ex didn't get married, the bottom line is the same. You generally can't relocate with your children unless you have your ex's consent, permission from the court or both. If you have to petition the court for permission, you must present a good case for the move, particularly if your ex opposes it.
Prepare a New Parenting Plan
The primary concern of most courts is that your children will still enjoy meaningful contact with both parents if you're allowed to relocate. If you create a new parenting plan or schedule and submit it with your petition, showing how contact will continue, you may increase your chances of success. You might also have to convince the court that after the new plan is in place, you'll honor its terms. You won't pull the plug on scheduled visitation because you don't want to go to the time or expense of transporting your children to your ex's home in another location -- and this cost might fall to you because you're the one who wants to move your children away. Your past parenting history may be important, particularly if you've ever shown an inclination to interfere with visitation when your ex lived nearby.
Give a Good Reason for Moving
Courts also care why you want to move, and some reasons have more merit than others. The judge will want some assurance that you don't want to relocate just so you can put some distance between your ex and your children. The fact that you prefer Florida's climate to Minnesota's probably won't convince a judge to alter your kids' time with their other parent, but if your employer has transferred you to another location, this might sway the court. Such a transfer -- or even remarriage if your new spouse works elsewhere -- might be an event worthy of changing your ex's parenting time.
Establish That Your Children's Lives Will Improve
In addition to a new parenting plan and good reason for moving, you may have to establish that your children's lives will be better in the new location. This might be because you'll be earning more money or perhaps because you have extended family there and your children would not be able to enjoy a relationship with them otherwise. Being close to your family may even offer you additional financial and emotional support, and if your life is more stable, this benefit would trickle down to your children. You might have to demonstrate the quality of the schools or availability of wholesome extracurricular activities for your children in your new location.
Your Ex's Visitation History
Just as your history of facilitating or interfering with visitation can work for or against you, the same applies to your ex. You'll probably find it easier to convince the court to let you relocate if he has a spotty record with visitation. If he's known for not making use of the visitation time available to him, preserving your children's time with him becomes less important. If you keep a diary or journal of the times he was supposed to take the kids but didn't, this can be helpful. Otherwise, you can have others testify regarding his track record.