Child Custody Issues May Be Contributing to Decline in Migration

People from North Carolina and across the U.S. used to move around the country a lot more than they do today. According to studies, inter-state migration rates are now much lower now than they were 50 years ago. Researchers have been hard-pressed to explain why people aren’t moving around as much, and attempts to connect declining migration rates to the aging population, increased homeownership, and changes in the economy have been unsuccessful.

Most of the proposed explanations for declining migration rates have been disproven, but one researcher believes he has found the answer. The geography professor says that family complexity, particularly issues involving divorce and child custody, has caused migration rates in the U.S. to drop.

As divorce rates continue to go up, judges are now more likely to award joint custody to both parents. In the 60s and 70s, a mother was usually awarded full custody after a divorce, and the father was more likely to move away. Today, divorced parents who share custody of their children tend to remain in the same state after a divorce. Researchers have also pointed out that low migration rates will likely lead to even lower migration rates in the future. This is because migration is a behavior that children often learn from their parents.

Not every divorcing parent remains in the same state as their ex-spouse. However, an out-of-state move can seriously complicate a divorce. A divorcing parent who would like to take legal action to prevent their child’s other parent from leaving the state with their child may want to work with an attorney. A lawyer may also be able to help a divorced parent to modify a custody agreement after the other parent has already moved out of the state.