Getting a divorce is difficult for the entire family, especially when children are involved. If your divorce has been finalized in California, you might be considering relocating with your child. However, it may not always be that easy as the court might decide that relocation is not in the best interest of the child.
There are often situations where a divorced parent with sole or joint custody of their child decides to move away or relocate. Typically, this decision is made to:
- move closer to their family;
- financial considerations;
- accept a promotion at work;
- go back to college;
- getting remarried.
A custodial parent in California has the right to change residences with their child as long as the move won't interfere with the child's rights or best interests. Under California law, a parent is required to provide:
- written notice of a plan to move away with their child for more than 30 days;
- the notice needs to be sent at least 45 days before the proposed move;
- to allow parents to work out a new child custody or visitation agreement.
The non-custodial parent can file an objection to the proposed relocation and ask a court to modify child custody as a result.
To give readers a better understanding on whether a custodial parent in California can move away with their child, our Los Angeles divorce and family law lawyers are providing a review below.
What are the Important California Child Custody Terms?
Child custody in California can get complicated, so before you consider relocating with your child, you need to make sure you have a clear understanding of the important child custody terms:
- “relocation” means the custodial parent wants to move away with their child, either out of state or a certain distance away;
- “primary custodial parent” means the parent who has primary physical custody of the child where they live the majority of the time;
- “child visitation” means the amount of time a child spends with the parent who doesn't have primary custody as described in the child custody agreement;
- “legal custody” means the right to make long-term decisions for the child, such as where they go to school, church, and healthcare;
- “joint custody” means both parents have about equal physical and/or legal custody of the child.
What is an Important Factor in Child Custody Agreement?
Parental relocation is clearly an important factor you need to consider in the context of divorce and child custody agreements in California. Frequently, when parents get divorced, one parent decides to move to another city or state.
If the parent was awarded sole physical custody or joint legal custody of their child, the decision to move quickly causes a serious dispute with the other parent.
Depending on the terms of your California child custody and parental visitation agreement, you can:
- request permission from the court to relocate with your child,
- to another city, state, or country.
It should be noted, however, the court has broad discretion to determine the outcome of child relocation cases.
This means you need to have an experienced California family law lawyer in your corner when filing for, or making a challenge to, a parental move-away petition.
What are My Parental Rights in Child Move-Away Situation?
As stated, a relocation or move-away case in California occurs when one divorced parent seeks permission from the family law court to:
- move their child far enough away that;
- the relocation will disrupt an existing custodial or parental visitation agreement;
- the other parent will be prevented from seeing their child as often as the existing custody agreement allows.
The parental rights in a California move-away or relocation situation will depend on the terms of the child custody agreement imposed by the family law court.
Under California Family Code 7501, a parent who has sole physical child custody has the right to:
- change the child's residence, if
- it doesn't prejudice the rights or welfare of the child.
In this situation, the custodial parent is not required to prove there is a necessity to make the move.
In order for the non-custodial parent to challenge a relocation, they will have to request a custody modification from the family law court. They will have to prove a substantial change in circumstances making a change of custody necessary for the welfare of the child.
If the divorced parents have joint legal custody, or a final child custody order has not yet been issued, then the family law court will decide what child custody arrangement is in the best interests of the children.
What Does a Family Court Judge Consider in a Child Relocation Hearing?
In California move-away cases, a change in child custody only applies if the move would significantly negatively impact the child.
If the other parent objects to moving the child, the family court judge will schedule a hearing to determine whether a change in custody or visitation is needed in the context of the proposed move.
A family court judge won't normally remove a child from a custodial parent because the proposed move will be difficult on the child.
Rather, a change of custody would be appropriate in a situation where the non-custodial parent can prove moving the child would be detrimental and that a changing the child custody order would be in the child's best interest.
Typically, during California child relocation proceedings, the family court judge considers the impact the move is likely to have on the child as their primary factor, along with other factors like:
- child's continuity and stability;
- child's health and well-being;
- child's emotional and physical needs;
- child's relationship with each parent;
- child's age and their wishes;
- existing child custody agreement;
- harm it would cause to relationship with non-moving parent;
- potential harm to child resulting from change on custody;
- potential harm to the child's education;
- distance and reason for the proposed move;
- parent's financial stability;
- parent's relationship with each other.
It's important to note the court can also consider any other factors the court deems relevant to the child's best interests.
Contact Furman & Zavatsky for Help with Child Move-Away Cases
In Los Angeles, what the family law court determines to be in the best interests of your child will have a significant impact on any child custody decisions.
It should be noted the family court judge hearing your child relocation case broad discretion on how they rule in these cases. As discussed, there are some issues that can complicate the outcome of parental move-away cases, including:
- child custody modification and visitation agreements, that
- could violate the rights of the other parent.
You need to understand that regardless of the actual distance of the move, if a parent's relocation negatively impacts the agreed-upon custody arrangement, it could end up in a family court for a decision.
This means you will need Los Angeles family law lawyer with experience litigating divorce relocation cases, which can significantly improve your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome in court.
Our skilled family law attorneys represent divorced parents on both sides of this situation, and we will work to find a fair solution for both parties. We understand your child's well-being is the primary focus in a parental relocation and any type of child custody dispute.
Furman & Zavatsky are Los Angeles divorce and family law attorneys who represent clients throughout Southern California, including LA County, Ventura County, Simi Valley, and the San Fernando Valley.
Our office is located at 15821 Ventura Blvd #690 Encino, CA 91436. Contact us for a free case consultation at (818) 528-3471.