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Child Custody and Relocation

Relocation is common in today’s mobile society. When a couple shares a child and one parent wants to relocate, the then issue becomes whether the parent will be allowed to take the child with him or her.

Depending on whether a court order exists—and the terms of that order–the custodial parent may be allowed to relocate with the child.  Whether the custodial parent needs permission from the other parent or court to relocate is a question best discussed with your attorney. Typically, if no court order exists, the relocating parent can relocate, but typically should not leave without providing notification to the non-custodial parent.

However, if the non-custodial parent subsequently asks that the court order that the child return to that parent’s care, then depending on several factors—including the location to where the parent relocated–the court might rule in that parent’s favor or at least rule that the child remain in the primary care of the parent that relocated, but only if that parent moves closer to the non-custodial parent.

If the parent relocated to another state with the child, then the court typically would order that at least the child return to Washington.

If there is already an order in place, and the custodial parent wants to move out of the child’s school district or out of state, then the parent typically must provide at least 60 days’ written notice to the other parent of the intention to move. The notice needs to provide specific information, such as the new residence and the date of the move.

If the non-custodial parent opposes the move, then he or she needs to file an objection with the court within 30 days of receiving the written notice of the intention to move. This objection needs to explain why the move is not in the child’s best interest. The trial court will ultimately have hearing on the relocation. The court official will consider many factors in deciding if it is in the child’s best interest to relocate. These factors include but are not limited to the following:

  • The strength and nature of the child’s relationship to the parents and other family members;
  • Whether disrupting the placement with the custodial parent would be more detrimental to the child than disrupting the contact with the non-custodial parent;
  • The reason the relocating parent is wanting to move;
  • The age and needs of the child, and the impact of relocation on the child’s education and development; and
  • The quality of life and resources in both the old residence and the proposed new residence.

The court will consider these and other factors and decide whether the relocating parent will be permitted to take the child with him or her in the move. Washington law favors allowing the custodial parent to relocate, and the court will allow the move unless the non-custodial parent can prove the benefits of the relocation to the child (and to a certain degree, to the custodial parent) are outweighed by the negative impact.

In relocation actions, one advantage to the non-custodial parent is that by filing the intended notice of intended relocation, the custodial parent “opens the door” for the non-custodial parent to file a petition to change custody of the child(ren) from the custodial to non-custodial parent.

Relocation actions are extremely complex.  If you are seeking to relocate or have been notified that the other parent intends to move, call us today at (253) 272-9459. We can help you navigate the complicated field of child relocation.

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