The Effect of Moving on Child Custody in California

Move-away disputes can be among the most wrenching parents—and courts—face

By

We live in a shrinking world, with access to opportunities across the country and around the globe. It’s common for people to relocate based on job transfers, improved earning potential, relationships, family, or simply the promise of a fresh start. But what happens when you are divorced with children and want to move to a new location? One parent inevitably loses physical access to their child, and the child to that parent, when geographic distance prevents regular contact. This has become an increasingly common and complex issue for family law courts.
 
California move-away custody disputes are governed by a mix of statutes and continually evolving court decisions that guide judges to make highly individualized determinations. Outcomes are rarely predictable. Unless both parents agree to the move and the terms of custody changes, a relocating parent must receive court approval to move with a child, whether within or outside California. Moving “away” is considered relocating a distance that will disrupt the current custodial arrangement, generally 50 miles or more. 
 
The parent anticipating such a move must provide at least 45 days’ notice of their plans to the other parent. If there is not yet a permanent custody order in place, the court will incorporate consideration of relocating the child as part of its standard “best interests of the child” assessment. Where there has been a final custody order, the matter is handled as a modification and the court will assess the request in light of the existing plan. The parent remaining behind may file a motion with the court for modification of custody, or the relocating parent may request permission to move with the child. The court cannot restrict the right of the parent to move, but makes a determination on whether they may move the child.
 
As a general rule, where the parent seeking to relocate has primary physical custody, it will be more likely the court will approve the move. Where there is shared physical custody, the court looks to the child’s best interests, through consideration of a number of factors—the biggest being that the move is not detrimental to the child.
 
  • The distance of the move, and the availability and cost of travel for visitation
  • The reason for the move (not seeking to deprive the other parent of access to the child)
  • How much time each parent currently spends with the child, and the child’s relationship with each parent
  • The age, needs and preferences of the child
  • Community and family ties in both the current and proposed locations
  • Which parent is more likely to encourage frequent and continuing contact with the other parent
There are several California cases that provide additional guidance regarding factual particularities, such as relocating to another country, grandparent interests, antipathy between the parties, or potential separation of siblings.
 
Ultimately, these are painful and difficult matters for all involved, and courts often seek the input of custody evaluators to assist in their conclusions. If you foresee a move-away custody situation, it’s in your interest to establish a plan with an attorney with expertise in these matters, sooner rather than later. 

California

The law on move-away custody is complicated and confusing, but the overarching assessment is that the proposed move is not detrimental to the child.

Other Featured Articles

Does This Job Make Me Look Old?

How to prove an age discrimination lawsuit in Florida

 

Your Rights Under the California Fair Pay Act

What the law means for employees and employers

 

What is a Public Benefit Corporation?

Maryland allows social enterprises to pursue legal designation

 

See More Legal Issue Articles »

Share:
Page Generated: 0.14483690261841 sec