It is very common for one partner to move away after a divorce or breakup either for a job, remarriage or even just a change of scenery. But if the split up involves child custody, moving away from the hometown is no simple matter. A “move away” by a parent can disrupt a child custody plan and be detrimental to the child’s best interests. When that happens one parent may challenge the other for a change of custody.
“Move away” is a term in California family law. It refers to the type of case that can arise when a parent who has joint or sole custody of a child decides to move to a location that is far enough away to disrupt the current custodial arrangement. It does not matter if the parent is moving a short distance away or to another state or country. If the move will impact the current custody situation, there may be an issue with the move and the parents will have to renegotiate their custody and visitation orders.
How a California family court considers your move away case depends on what type of custody you have. Regardless of the type of custody though, the court will always consider above all else the best interests of the child.
If one parent has sole physical custody of the child and the non-custodial parent has minimal involvement or contact with the child, the burden is on the non-custodial parent to show that the move away will negatively impact his or her relationship with the child and be against the best interests of the child. According to the leading California case in these situations, a custodial parent may move away with the child without the need for an evidentiary hearing if the noncustodial parent’s allegations are unwarranted.
The matter is much different in the case of joint custody or in a situation where the noncustodial parent is involved in the child’s life. In these situations the court actually presumes that a move away will be detrimental to the child and against his or her best interests. An evidentiary hearing may be held, a custody evaluation ordered and the child may even be appointed their own counsel.
In general, the more active that both parents are involved in a child’s life, the harder it is for one parent to move away with the child. This is due to the fact that courts generally hold that a child benefits from having a relationship with both parents until proven otherwise.
A parent with a child custody or visitation plan in place should never move away without first consulting a family law attorney. Relocating your child without having an approved order by the family law court can have severe consequences for a disobedient parent, both civilly and possibly even criminally. Charles D. Stark has decades of experience representing families in their most trying times in family court. If you are in Sonoma County and are seeking to relocate, contact him at (707) 527-9900 for an appointment today.