What to Know Before Moving States: Understanding Different State Laws
Posted: September 11, 2023
Moving states is a significant life decision that requires careful consideration and planning. Whether you're relocating for a new job, to be closer to family, or simply seeking a change of scenery, you’ve probably spent a lot of time weighing the pros and cons of a big move, but often, the legal considerations of moving states get overlooked.
While all states within the US share a common baseline of federal law, you may be surprised at the different laws that apply in individual states. Since exploring the difference between each state in depth would be an overwhelming amount of information, let’s instead take a look at some legal factors to account for when considering a move across state lines.
Reasons for Moving States
People move states for various reasons, and each individual's situation is unique. Some common reasons for relocating include job opportunities, education, lifestyle preferences, and family-related matters. For instance, you might be moving to a state with a lower cost of living or better career prospects. Before deciding to move, it’s important to assess your motivations and goals for the relocation. Understanding the driving factors behind your move will help you plan and adjust better to the changes that lie ahead.
Though often overlooked, reviewing standards of law in your next home state is also vital — and in some cases, the legal differences between states may be the very reason you want to relocate. Whether you’re hoping to find success in a state with different business or startup laws or want to live somewhere that you feel lines up better with your beliefs, understanding the differences between your current home and your destination is an essential part of the process.
Federal vs. State Laws
When moving states, it's crucial to be aware of the differences between federal and state laws. While federal laws apply across the entire country, state laws can vary significantly from one state to another. These variations can affect various aspects of your life, such as taxation, employment regulations, and even traffic laws.
For example, some states have specific regulations on vehicle emissions or sales tax, which may be different from what you're accustomed to in your current state. Familiarizing yourself with these legal distinctions will help you adapt to your new surroundings more smoothly.
Depending on your ambitions, it may also be important to know the laws about running for public office. Many positions on both the state and local levels require a certain number of years of residency in that place before you can hold an elected position.
Licensing and Permits
Getting a driver’s license in a new state is usually as simple as transferring your existing license (and sometimes taking a simple vision test). Still, it’s worth brushing up on driving laws, as these can vary pretty significantly from state to state.
Another essential aspect of moving states is understanding licensing and permits for any professional activities you’re a part of. Many professions, such as doctors, lawyers, and real estate agents, require state-specific licenses. When you move to a new state, you may need to obtain a new license or undergo a certification process to continue your career.
Additionally, if you own firearms, you'll need to ensure compliance with the firearm laws of your new state. Overall, it pays to research and prepare well in advance to avoid any disruptions to your professional or recreational activities.
Other Legal Considerations When Moving States
If you use cannabis products either medicinally or recreationally, it’s important to know the laws of your new home before moving states. While some states have fully legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use, others only permit medical purposes, while others still classify marijuana as an entirely illegal substance.
Environmental Protection Laws
Another area in which states can have vastly different regulations is environmental protection. Emissions standards, waste disposal regulations, and designations for protected lands are all regulated heavily in some states, while others rely primarily on federal regulations.
If you have children of school age, you may also want to consider the differences in education systems from state to state. Both the quality and content of education can differ substantially from state to state, so it’s worth looking into both state and local laws around education before making a move.
Taxation is yet another arena where states exercise their autonomy. Sales tax, income tax, and property tax can vary greatly across state lines. Some states may have higher tax rates, while others may offer more favorable tax environments. For example, if you’re considering a move from Pennsylvania to New York, you might not realize that clothing is taxed in your new state, unlike in the Keystone State, where there is no state tax on most clothing or food items.
Marriage and Divorce Laws
Moving states can also bring significant changes to your legal rights and responsibilities as a partner, especially in the event of a divorce. States have different laws concerning the age at which you can marry, child support, property division in a divorce, alimony, and the grounds on which you can file for divorce.
Another vital area to consider before moving states is abortion laws. Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, different states have enacted a wide range of new laws, from relatively permissive to severely restrictive. Knowing what your rights are is invaluable if you want to avoid issues when moving states.
Know the Laws with LegalFix
Ultimately, moving states leaves you with many things to consider, both legally and otherwise. Whether you want to legally prepare for a move across state lines or just want a better understanding of how our legal system works, LegalFix is your source for free legal information. You can find helpful articles and use the free search and information tools to better understand the state and federal laws that affect you. Just visit our website to find all this content — and check back often for more valuable legal products and services coming soon.
Neal Nagely is the founder and CEO of LegalFix, a free legal information site for individuals and small businesses. Neal practiced law in Dallas, Texas for 10 years before creating LegalFix to help people get answers to their legal questions.
For more information, please visit Neal’s LinkedIn.