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What Every Custodial Parent Needs to Know About California Move-Away Law

So, you were offered a promotion to your company’s corporate office in another state. Or, perhaps you’ve met someone new, you are getting remarried, and you want to move in with your new spouse in another county. Or maybe you simply want to start fresh in a brand new locale closer to friends or relatives following your divorce.

Whatever the case may be, whether your divorce was just finalized yesterday or 10 years ago, if you have some degree of custody over your minor children as a result of a divorce, moving away becomes much more complex than it used to be.

Unless your custody agreement or some other previous court order explicitly gives you the freedom to move, you cannot simply up and relocate wherever you please whenever you want—at least, not if you plan to bring your children with you.

When a parent with joint or sole custody of one or more children wants to move, and the move is far enough away to have an impact on the current custody or visitation arrangement with the other parent, this is known as a “move-away case.”

A move-away case requires the moving parent to seek a new legal custody or visitation arrangement. Ideally, you will be able to communicate with the other parent and come to an agreement on the new arrangements, but oftentimes this is not possible.

When the parents cannot agree, or are unwilling to try, the case will proceed to court. The parent that is initiating the move must file a motion for new custody orders. To be clear, this is not a motion requesting permission to move, but rather a motion requesting permission for your child to move with you.

Before the case proceeds to a judge, the parents must attempt to mediate the case and reach an agreement. If mediation fails, then the court will decide whether the custody arrangement should change, and if so, how it should change.

There are a number of ways the other parent could respond depending on the current custody arrangement. If the parents share joint custody, then the court will essentially treat the case like the original custody case and hold an evidentiary hearing to decide whether the move would be in the best interests of the child.

If the moving parent has sole custody, then he or she is considered to have a “presumptive right” to move with the child, and the other parent would have the burden to prove that the move would be a detriment to the child and would require a change in custody orders.

The courts will consider a number of factors in considering whether or not to change the custody orders for a move-away, such as whether the move would create a change of circumstances for the child that would have a negative impact on his or her stability or development, how far away the parent is planning to move and how this would impact visitation/custody, the reasons for the move, and more. The court may also consider the wishes of the child if he or she is 14 years of age or older.

Move-away cases can be incredibly complex and emotionally charged. If you are a custodial parent and you want to move with your children, or if your ex-spouse wants to move with your children, it is vital that you consult with a skilled and knowledgeable family law attorney from the Law Offices of Kayleene H. Writer as soon as possible. Give us a call today to learn more.