Can California parents move away with their kids after a divorce?

Following a divorce, custodial parents may still require permission from the other parent or court to move out of state with their children.

Following a divorce, employment opportunities, a want to be closer to family or just a desire to start fresh may push people to move away from California. For parents, however, there is more to making such a change than just deciding to move, packing up and hitting the road. If people are planning to relocate with their children, they may need to first obtain permission from the other parent or the court.

A presumptive right to move

Under state law, custodial parents in California have a presumed right to move away with their children. This does not mean, however, that they may simply up and go without notifying the other parent or the court. Custodial parents, whether they have shared or sole responsibility for their children, must provide 45-days notice prior to moving. If the non-custodial parent disputes the move, a court hearing may be held to determine if the relocation is in the best interests of the child.

Permission from the non-custodial parent

Perhaps the easiest path to relocation for custodial parents to obtain approval to move out of the state with their children is to get the permission of the other parent. In cases when both parents agree to the proposed relocation, they may come up with a modified agreement and complete and sign the appropriate forms on their own. After obtaining a signature from a family law judge and filing their forms with the court clerk, their modified custody arrangement goes into effect.

Obtaining court approval

Sometimes, non-custodial parents are not amiable toward a proposed move. Thus, they may refuse consent and request the court refuse the move-away petition. In such situations, a hearing is held to determine whether the move is in the child's best interests. To make such decisions, judges adhere to the considerations established in In re the Marriage of Burgess. These include the following:

  • The child's age
  • The dependency of the child's sense of stability on the current custody arrangement
  • The distance of the proposed relocation
  • The parent-child relationships

In deciding whether a move may be detrimental to a child, the court may also take into account the relationship between the parents, and their ability to facility a continued relationship after the relocation. Provided the judge finds the move will not prejudice the child's rights or welfare, the custodial parent may be granted approval by the court.

Working with a lawyer

Navigating the complexities of California's custody and move-away rules can be challenging for parents on their own. Thus, parents who have sole physical custody and are planning to relocate, or people who are concerned the other parent is going to move away with their children, may benefit from seeking legal guidance. A lawyer may help them understand their rights and options, in addition to guiding them through the process of modifying their custody agreements.