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California Joint Custody and Move-Away Situations

A divorce can often present a multitude of challenges for a family, even when the divorce was finalized several years ago. When parents reach an agreement on child custody and child support, there are circumstances that may require the family to reevaluate previous agreements.

One of the most difficult circumstances arises when one parent needs to relocate at a significantly far distance. Whether the relocation arises because of work or other reasons, there are several factors you should know if you are the relocating parent or the parent contesting the move.

Obtaining Consent

The ability to relocate with your child will depend on your specific situation. Although laws can change, the following information can provide context on what you can expect:

Sole Physical Custody

When one parent has sole physical custody, or primary physical custody, he or she can move with the child unless the other parent can prove that this will cause some type of harm to the child. For the most part, a parent that has sole legal custody of the child should have no issue with taking the minor out of the state. When the parents have shared custody, however, the matter can become complicated.

Joint Physical Custody

When parents have joint physical custody of the minor and one of the parents is against the child’s relocation, the parent who seeks to relocate will need to demonstrate that the move is in the best interests of the child. If you are a parent who shares custody of the minor, you have the right to relocate if the move does not affect the child’s best interests. You will also need to notify the parent at least 45 days prior to the relocation. If you are able to obtain consent from the other parent, you will be able to move and a new visitation arrangement can be drawn out.

It is important to understand, however, that when parents have joint physical custody of the child, this means that they agree that the mutual parenting of the child is important.

Finally, non-moving parents have a legal right to challenge the child’s relocation. When parents have joint legal custody of a minor and one parent seeks to move outside of the state, it is likely the other parent will not be consenting to the move.

When the move threatens to affect the other parent’s visitation rights, California joint court orders will often stipulate that a parent will not be able to move with the minor unless he or she has a written agreement and/or further court order. An out of state move will almost always make current standing visitation schedules untenable.

Obtaining a Court Order

When a parent decides to challenge the rearrangement, the relocating parent can petition a court for the legal right to move with the minor. If this is your case, the family law judge will determine if the adjustment in the child custody is necessary under what is in the best interest of your child. Joint custody cases are generally more difficult, as California family law courts will consider the following a hearing:

  • The minor’s need for stability
  • The proposed relocation’s distance
  • The damage the relocation will have in the custody arrangement
  • The parent’s relationship with the minor
  • The parent’s ability to effectively communicate and their overall relationship with one another
  • The reason for the move
  • How the child’s physical, educational, and emotional needs will be affected by the relocation
  • The minor’s present familial relationships and after the relocation
  • Other factors the family court will determine is significant in protecting the child’s best interests

In situations where parents who do not share joint custody but instead one parent has sole legal custody of the minor, the non-moving parent will need to demonstrate to a family court how the change will affect or harm the child.

Obtain Legal Assistance from a Compassionate and Experienced Family Law Firm

Relocation can be very difficult for a family and reaching an agreement can be challenging. When petitioning with a family law court for the ability to relocate the child, a court may issue an order granting sole legal custody to the non-moving parent. If you need to relocate or are the challenging relocation, contact the support of a knowledgeable attorney who can represent your interests.

The family law attorneys at Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP are specialized in the field of parent relocation and move-away orders. Fore knowledgeable and seasoned legal support with a California child custody dispute, contact the support of a qualified law firm as soon as possible.

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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.