Co-parenting, whether you have sole custody or joint custody, requires a lot of coordination, but at the same time, you’re leading your own life. Your fortunes may lead you in an entirely new direction, and you decide to move.
Can a co-parent make that move? What constitutes a relocation, a move-away? In California, the custodial parent has some latitude before they’re in move-away mode.
If the contemplated time away is under 30 days, or if it’s over 30 days but within 50 miles, the custodial parent can move and no notice to the other parent is required. If a written agreement is already in place with respect to an anticipated move outside of a 50-mile radius, no notice to the other parent is required.
The move-away notice requirement comes into play if the custody agreement stipulates that the other parent be notified of a 50+ mile move. That notice must be delivered by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the other parent at their last known address and to their counsel of record 45 days out.
If the other parent doesn’t contest the move, a written agreement is executed that must be agreed to by the court.
The Move-Away Case
The co-parents may not reach an agreement. In that case, the relocating parent will need a court order to go forward.
First and foremost, the child’s best interests govern. Should the objecting parent convince the judge that the move would harm the child, the judge will likely block the relocation.
If the co-parents share joint physical custody and it’s a very even share, the relocating parent has a tough, legal hurdle to overcome.
For the relocation case to succeed, the judge will consider the merits of the move, that is, to what extent will it benefit the child and the family. This move could mean a job or educational opportunity, lower cost of living, or proximity to a stronger social network of family and friends.
The judge will look at the whole 360 degrees of the child’s world including but not limited to the child’s age, whether there are special needs, the child’s bonds with each parent and relationships with extended family, the parents’ co-parenting success or the lack thereof, and the comparative health and strength of each parent.
And then the judge decides. Woe to the parent who doesn’t abide by that ruling, because that would be courting a lot of heartache.
A relocation case is no time to go it alone. Of course, every case is different and a consult with an attorney may suffice. An attorney experienced in this area of the law can help sort through the complexities and hopefully achieve a positive outcome.