Planning to Relocate as a Divorced Parent
Life takes a person in many unexpected directions, and circumstances that seemed fixed can change in an instant. Relocating to a new city or state is one of those decisions that often comes on the heels of changing jobs, going back to school, or moving closer to family. When a person is divorced with children and must factor in the terms of child custody, moving away becomes more complicated. Even if a parent has primary physical custody of a child, the non-custodial parent still has rights that could easily be infringed upon by a parent moving a child far away. As a consequence, relocating divorced parents must follow certain rules before a relocation can be legally made. Restrictions related to relocations are often included in parenting plans, and limit how far a parent may move with a child, and/or conditions that must accompany a relocation in order to obtain the other parent’s permission. Even in the absence of provisions in a parenting plan, Pennsylvania law requires a parent planning to relocate to obtain the permission of the other parent or court approval to ensure he/she does not violate the terms of the child custody order and potentially trigger serious consequences. All divorced parents should have some understanding of the rules governing relocations so that one does not fail to assert parental rights.
When Do the Relocation Rules Apply?
Unlike other states, Pennsylvania does not define relocation by the number of miles moved. Instead, the meaning of the term is much more fluid, meaning it could potentially apply in a wider variety of circumstances. A move is considered a relocation if it would significantly impact the ability of the non-relocating from exercising his/her custodial rights. Thus, while a move within the same county might not require permission, anything much further reasonably could. Thus, unless a parent is staying within the same immediate area, getting other parent’s permission, and filing that consent with the court, is a prudent approach to protecting against future disputes over the issue. Any consent would need to take into account how the non-custodial parent’s time with the child would be exercised and the new terms included with the documents presented to the court. A modification of the child custody agreement usually accompanies the petition to allow for future enforcement of parental rights. Notice of the relocation must be given to the other parent 60 days prior to the move, unless they had no way of knowing about that in advance. If the non-relocating parent disagrees, he/she has 30 days to file an objection with the court.
If the relocation is challenged, the court must review a number of factors to determine if relocation would promote the child’s wellbeing and safety. Some of these include:
- The nature and quality of the child’s relationship with each parent and other significant people in the child’s life;
- The age, development, and needs of the child, and how the move would impact these issues;
- Whether the relationship with the non-relocating parent could be preserved in light of the logistical considerations and financial means of each parent;
- Whether the relocation will enhance the quality of life for the relocating parent and/or child; and
- The reasons the non-relocating parent is objecting to the move.
If a parent moves the child without court permission, the unauthorized move could result in favor of the non-relocating party. A consultation with a family law attorney is essential in cases of relocation to ensure compliance with the law.
Talk to a Pennsylvania Family Law Attorney
If you are facing a relocation or know your former spouse is planning to move a significant distance, talk to the Media child custody attorneys at Barbara Flum Stein & Associates about what the law requires. Courts take seriously potential interference with custodial rights, and following the proper steps is important. Our Delaware County attorneys can help you navigate this process, and give you the outcome you need to help your family. Contact the family law firm at (610) 565-6100 to schedule a consultation.