When one parent wants to relocate out of state in the months or years following a divorce, this decision can disrupt an existing custody arrangement. The other parent can decide whether to agree to the move or contest it in court.
Review the factors in California that apply to child custody and long-distance relocation.
The role of custody
A parent cannot move an extended distance with the children without the other parent’s permission. If the relocating parent has permanent primary physical custody, the noncustodial parent must prove that the move would harm the child to successfully block it in court. He or she can also request a modification of the existing physical custody arrangement. When parents share physical custody, the relocating parent must show the judge that the relocation serves the best interests of the child.
The legal process
Regardless of the custody arrangement, any parent who wants to move with the child for longer than 30 days must provide official notice to the other parent 45 or more days before relocating. This provides the other parent an opportunity to contest the move and request a custody modification.
The court will schedule a hearing at which the judge will decide whether to allow the relocation. He or she will consider:
- The stability of the current custody arrangement
- How well the parents get along and coparent together
- The relationship the child currently has with each parent
- The distance of the move from the other parent’s home
- The presence of extended family at the child’s proposed new home
- The impact of the move on the relationship between the child and the parent who is not moving
- The reason for the move
Divorcing parents can also create an agreement that prevents the custodial parent from moving outside a certain distance.