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Move-aways and child custody agreements

The difficult economy we have faced for the last several years has hit California very hard. Though unemployment is falling, it is still hovering just below 11%. The high unemployment rate has forced many parents to consider moving, many times out of state, in order to continue supporting their families. Divorce parents who are contemplating a move, or who have already accepted a job in a different city or state must be aware of the potential impact their decision would have on their current child custody agreement.

Custodial parents who are considering a move, whether to another city or another state, must seek approval from the court by filing a move-away petition in order to comply with the law. Typically, California family court judges do allow custodial parents to move to a new location if they have a good reason to move, such as a job offer. However, judges have been known to deny a relocation request if the non-custodial parent is able to prove that the move would have a detrimental effect on their parent-child relationship. And, if the courts suspect that the move has been initiated in order to limit or deprive the non-custodial parent of his or her visitation rights, they will quickly deny a relocation request, even if it is driven by a legitimate job offer.

Some of the factors the court will consider in determining whether to modify custody include:

  • The reason for the move
  • The distance of the move
  • The age of the child and their relationship with both parents
  • The child's wishes and interest in the current custody arrangement, if they are old enough to make their wishes known
  • The parents' relationship with each other, including their ability to communicate and cooperate with one another and their willingness to put the child's interests first
  • The current custody agreement and impact on the non-custodial parent

A relocation is also an opportunity for the non-custodial parent to request a change to the custody agreement. California state courts recognize relocation as a significant change in circumstances that may necessitate a modification of the custody order. If the court does not find sufficient evidence to modify the custody order, they may still allow modification to the visitation agreement and award greater contact to the non-custodial parent. The courts will often require the custodial parent who is moving to pay for the transportation cost of the children when visiting the non-custodial parent. It's also common to see the courts grant the non-custodial parent larger blocks of uninterrupted visitation, to ensure the child maintains approximately the same visitation time, even though it may not be as frequent.

The bottom line is if you are the primary custodial parent and are seeking to move, be prepared to show the court how the benefits of relocating outweigh the benefits of not moving. If you are seeking to prevent your children from being moved, you must contest the proposed change as soon as you become aware of it. That's when it's time to call us. With our superior experience and commitment to our clients, our success rates are second to none.

Disclaimer – The materials contained in this blog have been prepared for informational purposes only. The information contained is general in nature, and may not apply to particular factual or legal circumstances. In any event, the materials do not constitute legal advice or opinions and should not be relied up on as such.

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