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Joint custody and I want to move with our child

What are the rules when you have joint custody and want to move with the child? Do you always need the other parent’s consent? Here’s what you need to know as a parent before moving with the child.

Decisions about relocation are part of shared parental responsibility

The starting point with joint custody is that parents together make decisions regarding the child and their personal matters.

For everyday routine decisions, it’s assumed that parents are in agreement. For example, when a custodian takes the child to the health center. However, there are some situations where formal approval is needed from both custodians when the issue significantly affects the child’s future:

  • Name
  • Application for school placement
  • Non-routine health care
  • Passport application
  • National registration

So, anyone wanting to change the child’s registration and enroll them in a new school needs the other custodian’s approval. If the parents cannot agree on the matter, the parent cannot move with the child, and the current situation should remain. This rule is in place to prioritize the child’s well-being over a conflict between the parents.

What happens if the parent moves anyway?

The circumstances of the move matter. If the parent moves within the same area, the practical differences may not be significant. The child might still attend the same school, participate in the same activities, and have shared custody arrangements with the other parent as before.

However, a move from for example Stockholm to Dalarna,without consent from the other custodian and without significant reasons, presents more significant changes for the child. Such a move fundamentally alters the child’s life and limits their ability to maintain a relationship with the other parent as before (assuming shared custody).

Legally, the parent who moves with the child without consent may be guilty of “unlawful deprivation of liberty of a minor,” a crime punishable by a fine or imprisonment for up to one year (Chapter 7, Section 4 of the Penal Code).

However, an exception from criminal liability exists through the wording “significant reasons” in the law. Custodians then have limited room to take actions that would otherwise be punishable. A move may occur without consent to protect the child from abuse or violence, for example.

In addition to criminal liability for unlawful deprivation of liberty of a minor, there’s also the risk that the parent who moves with the child may lose custody of the child in a subsequent custody dispute. It may also be decided by the court that the child should spend more time with the other parent.

What can the other parent do?

If the child is moved far away without consent, it may be important for the remaining parent to take immediate action and seek advice from an experienced family law attorney. What is appropriate to do is often a delicate balance and depends on the circumstances of the individual case. Here, a knowledgeable attorney can advise on whether it is appropriate to apply for sole custody on an interim basis in the district court.

How to think as a parent – other alternatives

  • First and foremost, remember that the child has the right to a close and good relationship with both parents (Chapter 6, Section 2a of the Parental Code).
  • If a move is necessary due to work or other reasons, seek assistance from the Family Law or specialized mediators in the first instance. They can help you reach a mutual agreement outside of court. There are also various ways to assist the child in maintaining contact with the other parent even if you live further apart.
  • If an agreement cannot be reached, the parent wishing to move must apply for sole custody in the district court. The processing time in the district court varies, usually 4-12 months, and the process is costly, both in terms of money and emotional investment. Keep in mind that the other parent can also request sole custody in the case.
  • If you need more information, book a consultation session with an experienced attorney specialized in child custody so that you can receive accurate information and an assessment of the situation in your case.
  • If you need recommendations for attorneys, you can email us at, and we can provide you with contact information for our partners.
Elisabeth Scholander