In Hood v. Hood, a 2012 Montana Supreme Court case, the mother wanted to move to Utah with her children to start life anew. She argued that, since her parents were moving to Utah and were an essential part of her parenting system, and since she wanted to start life anew and finish her education and obtain employment, which her parents would help her with, it was in the best interests of the children to allow her to make the move to Utah.
As it turned out, she misrepresented the situation for each of these statements. Her parents never moved to Utah, although she claimed that they were planning to. In the year after moving, at which time this case came before the Court, she did nothing to finish her education.
The father then argued to the Court that Mother should be required to return to Montana or at least to return the children, because Mother “was allowed to move to Utah only under specific conditions defined by the District Court’s Order.”
The Justices looked to the fundamental right to interstate travel to answer this question. They quoted an earlier decision wherein it was stated that “the custodial parent who bears the burdens and responsibilities of raising the child is entitled, to the greatest possible extent, to the same freedom to seek a better life for herself or himself and the children as enjoyed by the noncustodial parent . . . [but that] . . . the custodial parent’s freedom is qualified by the special obligations of custody, the state’s interest in protecting the best interests of the child and the competing interests of the noncustodial parent.” (In re Marriage of Cole, 224 Mont. 207, 213, 729 P.2d 1276, 1280 (1986)).
To deny the right of interstate travel requires a compelling state interest. However, children’s best interests is an example of just that. “We believe that furtherance of the best interests of a child, by assuring the maximum opportunities for the love, guidance and support of both natural parents, may constitute a compelling state interest worthy of reasonable interference with the right to travel interstate. We caution, however, that any interference with this fundamental right must be made cautiously, and may only be made in furtherance of the best interests of the
child. To that end, we require the parent requesting the travel restriction to provide sufficient proof that a restriction is, in fact, in the best interests of the child.” (Cole, 224 Mont. at 213, 729 P.2d at 1280-81).
In this case, because Mother did in fact finally earn her high school equivalency diploma, after the original hearing in the case, Father failed to prove his case.
This case really represents the complex analysis that the Courts must go through to determine the best interests of the children when parents relocate.