Relocating with Children After a Divorce

For many in California who have recently been divorced, a final order of divorce offers the chance to start anew – sometimes it’s in a new house, a new job, but sometimes, in rarer cases, it involves relocation to another city or even state.

Unless your decree specifically mentions the possibility of relocation, moving to another city or state following the finalization of your divorce can present multiple challenges.

Moving Away Requires Examination of Three Key Points

Courts must generally approve of any plan by a parent to relocate to a city or state different from the other parent, especially if the relocating parent is the person with whom the child primarily resides. In deciding whether to approve the relocation, the court will consider:

Who has custody of the child, and what kind of custody is it? Where a parent has sole physical custody of the child, he or she will usually be permitted to move away to a new city or state unless the other parent is able to show that the proposed move would be detrimental to the child. If the parents share joint physical custody of the child, a parent will only be permitted to move to another location if they can demonstrate that the move is in the best interests of the child. This can be shown with evidence that educational opportunities will improve; they will be closer to more family; and the moving parent’s financial support will increase. The move needs to be in good faith and not be designed to interfere with the other parent’s custodial time, or the court will be reluctant to order any modification.

What modifications to the parenting plan must be made? If any parent moves to a distant city or another state, a modification will be required to the visitation schedule. Obviously, a visitation that is scheduled to occur other weekend may not be economical or practical if there is a lot of traveling involved. Likewise, requiring a young child to travel long distances frequently might be detrimental to their health and well-being. If the parties cannot agree to a suitable modification, then the court will modify the plan as it sees appropriate.

What is in the child’s best interests? In any situation, the court will ultimately determine whether to approve or disapprove the modification, or a move, based on what the court considers to be in the best interests of the child. There are no hard and fast criteria for what the best interests of the child means; however, essentially the court will not approve any action that the court feels will harm the child’s physical, mental, emotional, and/or spiritual well-being.

Professional Assistance with Relocation

Before moving away to a new life – whether across town, in a different city, or to another state – consult with an experienced California child custody attorney. Depending on the unique facts of your circumstances, you may need to seek the court’s approval before you leave. Shoreline Legal Group offers residents of the greater Long Beach area affordable family lawyers and flat rate assistance in successfully resolving child custody, visitation, and move-away issues. Contact us today at 562-449-4665 to discuss your case.