Whether for a fresh start, better job or closer ties to family, many divorced individuals opt to move a few hours away or even out of California. What happens when one parent wants to relocate the children?
If you share custody or have visitation, understand your rights when the other parent requests a long-distance move.
Primary Physical Custody vs. Joint Physical Custody
If the parent who wants to move has permanent primary physical custody, he or she can move unless the noncustodial parent can prove to the court that relocating would cause harm to the child. In this case, you can request a modification to the parenting plan to share physical custody and contest the move.
If the parents share physical custody, the parent who wants to move has the burden of proof. He or she must show the court that the move is in the child’s best interest.
The process of contesting relocation
California law requires a parent to give at least 45 days of legal notice when he or she plans to relocate with the child for longer than a month. If the other parent objects upon receiving notice, the custodial parent requesting relocation must file a petition with the family court requesting the court’s permission to move. When determining whether the move is in the child’s best interest, the California court will consider:
- The level of stability in the child’s life
- Possible harm that could result from a custody modification
- The parents’ relationship with one another and ability to successfully co-parent
- How far the parent wants to move
- The child’s current relationship with each parent
- How the move would affect the child’s relationship with the other parent
- Whether the child has extended family in the new location
- How the move will support the child’s healthy well-being and development
- The reason for the move
If you are in the process of divorce, you may want to seek shared physical custody or primary custody if you worry that the other parent will relocate. Having regular visitation supports a healthy parenting relationship.