It is not uncommon for a parent to move to a new area following a separation or divorce. Many see a change in residence as a fresh start, and in some cases it is necessary for employment. When a custodial parent wants to move away with their kids, however,
custody arrangements can be challenging to sort out as circumstances change.
In the court's opinion, a move constitutes a substantial change in circumstances and creates a need for new custody and visitation orders. As always, these court orders are to be made with the best interests of the child as the basis of the decision.
What is a "Move-Away" Case?
When a parent with sole or joint custody decides to move to an area that is far enough away to disrupt the current arrangement, it is referred to as a move-away case. When this happens, the parents need to file a motion for new custody orders. One parent may file for permission to bring the child with them, while the other may try to find a way for the child to stay. If an agreement cannot be made with the help of mediation, the case would then go before a judge.
The court's decision and approach to move-away cases are influenced by the custody status of the moving parent. If there is a joint custody agreement, the parents are given equal consideration and the decision is made based on the best interests of the child. If the moving parent has sole custody, there is a generally held assumption that they are able to move with the child at will. In order to have the child stay, the non-custodial parent would need to prove that a move would be detrimental to the child in order to bring about a reevaluation of the current custody order.
Proving this detriment can be tricky, as the lack of interaction between the child and the non-moving parent caused by the move may not be enough to sway a judge's decision. Pending court approval, a child under age 14 may be allowed to testify and voice their preference. If the child is over 14, they must be allowed to voice their opinion in court unless otherwise restricted by the court.
The judge's decision
will be made with consideration given to the following factors:
- The child's age
- The importance of a stable/continuous environment
- The strength of the relationship with both parents
- The wishes of the child
- The reason for the move
The reasoning behind the move isn't required to be given, though the judge will consider it in their decision if there is sufficient evidence to suggest the move is solely meant to hurt the relationship between the child and the non-moving parent.
There are no clear cut rules to move-away cases, further lending to their complexity. If you are looking to move with your child or you're fearful that your former spouse will want to move away with them, it is extremely important that you contact an experienced family law attorney to help protect your rights. At Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich, we offer a compassionate and individualized approach to child custody cases and can help you build a strong case aimed at maintaining your rights to your children.
Don't let your former spouse take your children away from you. Speak to a Murrieta divorce attorney today at (905) 506-6654.