Going through a divorce is tough, but divorcing with kids can make the process even more arduous. In California, if you share custody of a child with an ex-spouse, there are rules regarding if and when you can relocate (move away) with your child. If you relocate without permission from your ex-spouse or the courts, you could face serious consequences – including a potential allegation of parental kidnapping.
California’s Child Custody and Relocation Laws
A relocation case is when one parent – typically, the parent with primary physical custody of the child – seeks to move to a new city, state or country with the child. These are complex family law cases that involve many child custody rules and restrictions. Whether the planned relocation is a short distance away or international, the parent must receive the proper permissions before taking the child anywhere.
Under California Family Code Section 7501, a parent with custody of a child has the right to change the residence of that child, subject to the power of the courts to block a removal that would harm the rights or welfare of the child. The custodial parent must receive the court’s permission before relocating. A parent can obtain legal permission to move away with a child in two different ways: consent from the other parent or filing a relocation petition.
Requirements for a Parental Relocation Petition
If you cannot get the other parent’s permission to relocate with your child, you can take your request to the California family courts. You will need to file a written legal request, known as a relocation petition, to seek a judge’s permission to move. Note that if you have sole physical custody of your child, you have a presumptive right to change residences. However, if the move is not in the child’s best interests, the court can withhold its permission.
If you wish to file a relocation petition in California, you must meet the following requirements:
- You must send the other parent advance notice by mail of your plans to relocate the child at least 45 days before the proposed moving date.
- The other parent may either accept the request (and mediate a new custody agreement, if necessary) or reject it, in which case the matter will go to court.
- You must submit your relocation petition to the courthouse that issued your original custody agreement.
- You or your child custody lawyer may need to argue why the move is in the child’s best interest or combat a contestation from the other parent.
- If an approved relocation will affect your existing parenting plan, you will need to seek a custody modification.
Changing the residence of a child under a joint custody plan in California requires an official move-away request and permission from the courts. However, state law holds that the relocating parent does not have to prove that the move is necessary, such as for a job relocation or military deployment.
What Do Judges Look at When Deciding Relocation Cases?
The simplest way to change residences as the parent with primary custody of a minor child in California is to obtain the other parent’s written permission. If this is not possible, you will need to go before a judge to get the court’s permission to move. A judge will examine factors such as the age of the child, the relationship the child has with both parents, the distance of the proposed move and the existing custody arrangement to decide on a move-away case.
If you need assistance with your relocation petition or arguing your case before a judge, contact a family law attorney at Boyd Law. We are experienced Los Angeles divorce and child custody attorneys.