There are many reasons why you might want to move after a divorce. Whether it’s for a better job opportunity, to be closer to family, to provide your children with enhanced opportunities, to further your education, or for any other reason, a move might be in order, but it’s important to consider the ramifications that a move could have on your shared custody arrangements.
While the court cannot require you to remain in California, it does have the discretion to modify your custody arrangements if it’s deemed to be in the best interests of your children. In other words, if you’re making a decision of this magnitude, you’re well advised to have the professional legal guidance of an experienced California child custody attorney on your side.
If You Are the Custodial Parent
Even if you share joint physical custody of your children, one of you may be identified as the custodial parent, and this parent has the right to travel freely with the children and even to relocate with them under highly specific circumstances. If you share custody with your ex, but you are your children’s custodial parent, it gives you an advantage when it comes to relocation, but that is hardly the end of the story.
Making Arrangements between Yourselves
When you and your children’s other parent divorced, you had the option of hammering out child custody arrangements that worked for each of you and your shared children, and the court is typically amenable to signing off on such arrangements. Perhaps these arrangements have served you well over the course of your divorce until now, but you’re currently considering a move that could rock the boat.
If your ex is willing to negotiate a visitation schedule with you that accommodates everyone’s needs, the court is also very likely to OK this modification, but if your ex is balking at your desire to make a move with the children, it’s another matter altogether, and making a move without obtaining the court’s OK is not going to do you any favors.
The Court’s Stance
When considering your request to relocate with the children, the court is motivated solely by the best interests of you and your ex’s shared children. In making this determination, the court will consider all of the following:
- Each child’s health, safety, and welfare when he or she is with each parent
- The nature and extent of contact the children have with each parent
- Whether either parent has a history of drug or alcohol abuse
- Whether either parent has a history of abuse of the children or of the other parent
- Each child’s preference if he or she is old enough and mature enough to weigh in
- Any other factor the court deems relevant to the situation at hand
Rules and Regulations
A custodial parent in California has the legal right to move to a different home and/or to a different neighborhood with the children, but the move in question must not interfere with the children’s best interests. In order for a custodial parent to move away with the children for more than 30 days, he or she must provide written notice to their other parent at least 45 days before the move in question – in order to allow ample time to negotiate a mutually acceptable custody agreement or visitation schedule. If your children’s other parent disagrees with your proposal, however, he or she can file an objection with the court and ask for a custody modification.
A Severe and Negative Impact
The court is unlikely to deny a custodial parent’s right to move unless the parent who seeks the custody modification can demonstrate that the move will have a severe and negative impact on the children (and that a change in custody would better serve them). In making this determination, the judge will consider wide-ranging factors, including:
- The custodial parent’s reason for moving
- Each child’s need for continuity and stability
- Each child’s educational, physical, and emotional needs and how the move will meet them
- The children’s proximity to close family members at present and at the proposed new location
- How far away the proposed move is
- Any harm that a change in custody might cause
- Each child’s relationship with each parent
- Any harm that the move would cause between the children and the noncustodial parent
- The parents’ relationship with one another, including their ability to communicate
- Any other factor the court deems relevant to the best interests of the children
In other words, it’s complicated, and every situation is unique to the circumstances involved, which makes working closely with a dedicated California child custody attorney the best path forward.
When it comes to the court’s decision-making process, it can help to consider examples. Consider a custodial parent who takes it upon himself to move across the country with the children because he’s looking for a change of scenery after being divorced for a year or two. If the other parent objects and asks for a modification of the child custody arrangements based on the fact that the children are well adjusted, have close relationships with their extended family, and are all doing very well in school – where they are currently – the court may be moved by this parent’s request for a child custody modification.
If, on the other hand, a custodial parent requests to move to a city about an hour away for a job that will allow her to spend more time with the kids and to provide them with more opportunities, the court might likely OK the move and be far less inclined to award the noncustodial parent a child custody modification.
Reach out to an Experienced California Child Custody Attorney for the Help You Need
If you’re considering a move with your kids post-divorce, it’s important to discuss the matter with a practiced California child custody attorney who has considerable experience successfully guiding these often complicated cases.