Life goes on, even after divorce. That can mean a career move, an altered financial situation, a new relationship or needing to take care of a sick relative. Once a new normal has set in after the divorce is final, parents may feel that it will be challenging to request a change in the agreement or court order, especially when they have to revisit old issues with their ex.
But when there are custody issues, parents will usually do what it takes to keep a presence in their children’s lives. In California, in any move-away request the court must consider the child’s needs above any inconvenience or difficulty to the parent that a relocation may create. It is important to understand the legal issues that can arise for both parents and what is possible when making the request.
What the law allows
In California, parents have a right to change an existing divorce decree that involves moving a child, unless the move would negatively impact the child’s welfare or rights. In ruling on a move-away request, the court will consider factors that are in the best interest of the child, including:’
- the welfare and safety of the child
- the age of the child and the child’s wishes if of the age of maturity
- how much time the child will spend with the other parent
- how the move will impact the time the child will spend with the custodial parent or primary caregiver
In addition, the court will also consider if the reason for the move is legitimate and how far away the parent will be.
Resolving conflict for the sake of the children
For most parents, any conflict that affects their ability to see their children becomes a hot-button issue. In an amicable divorce, the parents may be able to come up with an agreement on their own when their circumstances have changed. They would then submit this joint stipulation to the court for approval. More often, however, changes to existing orders can become contentious and require court intervention to resolve.
Above all, it is not a good idea for one parent to relocate a child without an approved court order, as the penalties can be severe. When the court hears a case involving a move-away request, the burden of proof lies with the parent who objects to the move, not the parent requesting the change, to make the case that such a move would be detrimental to the child.
The relocating parent must get written consent, or provide written notice, of any intention to move the child for over 30 days. If the other party does not agree to this request, a scheduled hearing in court will allow them to voice their objections in front of a judge, who will then decide the merits and either reject the motion or grant the request with a new custody or visitation order.