Any child custody agreement is likely to generate strong emotional issues for the parents beholden to the agreement as well as their children. One issue that is very likely to cause strong emotional turbulence between divorced parents is relocation. If parents share custody of their children and one of the parents decides to move, what happens to their custody agreement?
It is vital for divorced parents in this situation to know their rights, whether they are the ones intending to relocate or are the non-relocating parent and believe that moving would not suit their child’s best interests. If you find yourself on either side of this situation, it’s vital to understand California’s laws regarding child custody and relocation and how an experienced family law attorney can help you.
When the Other Parent Is Relocating
If you have a custody agreement with your ex, that agreement includes terms for allocation of parental rights and responsibilities, and these terms outline how much time each parent may spend with their children, how the parents must handle custody transfers, and other expectations related to their arrangement. When your ex decides to move, they must provide the court with at least 45 days of notice in writing, and the court may relay this notice to the other parent. The court will review the proposed relocation to determine whether it would materially alter the existing custody agreement and, if so, whether it is acceptable for the relocation to proceed.
When the relocating parent is only moving a short distance, and the move is unlikely to interfere with the non-relocating parent’s ability to exercise their custody rights and visitation, the court will likely grant the relocation request with little to no argument. However, if the relocating parent is moving a considerable distance away, they must make a strong case for maintaining their custody rights or securing greater physical custody and taking their children with them.
It is easy to see how this can be an incredibly stressful experience for the non-relocating parent. They will need to work closely with their attorney to make a strong case against the relocation. For example, the relocating parent must provide evidence that the move would suit the child’s best interests. If they cannot, the court will either deny the request for relocation or award greater custody rights to the non-relocating parent. that
If You Decide to Move
If you have joint custody with your ex and are presented a job opportunity in another state, or if you believe that relocating would offer your children a better life, it’s vital to craft a strong argument to present to the family court for your relocation to be approved. In most cases, family court judges uphold that children of divorced parents thrive best when they have equal access to both parents so long as both parents can provide safe and nurturing parenting to their children.
It’s vital to understand the fact that even if you believe you have a strong argument for relocating and taking your kids with you, the judge overseeing the matter may not see it the same way. If you feel compelled to go through with your relocation, this may mean sacrificing some of your custodial rights and potentially absorbing responsibility for child support if your ex obtains primary custody after your relocation. This is a difficult decision for any parent to make, and consulting with an experienced attorney is the best approach to this situation.
Understanding the “Best Interests of the Child”
The family court system of California must put the best interests of the child involved in any family law matter first before any other considerations. When it comes to relocation under a child custody agreement, this means the judge must ensure that any proposed relocation or the denial or a proposed relocation suits the best interests of the child the order will affect.
Generally, family court judges try to help the children of divorced and divorcing parents maintain as much normalcy and consistency in their daily lives as possible. This means that when a parent notifies the court, they intend to relocate, the court may need to decide whether it would be better for the children to move with the relocating parent or remain with the non-relocating parent. In most cases, the latter is more likely as it would allow the children to stay in the same school and live in a familiar neighborhood.
If you have the chance to relocate and are uncertain how this will affect your child custody agreement, or if your ex plans to move and you are concerned about losing custody rights, it is vital to speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Law Offices of Dorie A. Rodgers today, and we can help you better understand your legal options in this difficult situation.