How Do You Win a Move-Away Custody Case in California?


The child custody arrangements that you either agreed to with your ex or that the court provided for you likely worked well enough at the time, but our lives evolve – and child custody arrangements have a way of not keeping up. If you are planning on a move for a career advancement, for educational opportunities, or any other reason, you will need a child custody modification.

If your ex is willing to negotiate one with you, the court will generally be happy to oblige. If not, however, you will need to take the matter up with the court, and it pays to have your ducks in a row when you do. If your goal is to win a move-away custody case, you need the professional legal guidance of an experienced California child custody attorney on your side. 

If You Are the Primary Custodial Parent

If your plan is to move with your children, it is important to understand that, in California, if you are the primary custodial parent and your children live with you the majority of the time, the law finds that you have the presumptive right to do so. This presumptive right is nowhere near an absolute right, but if you can demonstrate the following, you will be off to a good start:

  • That you are making the move in good faith (not to thwart your ex)
  • That the move will not be significantly detrimental to your children (this talking point, however, is ambiguous and can become very complicated very quickly)

The court will consider wide-ranging factors in making its final decision about your move, but this is a strategic starting position. If your ex, however, has your shared children more than 30 percent of the time, your status as the primary custodial parent may not hold, which means your task will likely be more complicated.

Plan Strategically

Before throwing down the gauntlet and declaring that you are planning to move, it is imperative that you do some serious strategizing. The family court that hears your case is going to take multiple factors into consideration, and before you push forward, it is a good idea for you to consider the same factors and see how your move-away case stacks up. These factors include:

  • Your Proposed Visitation Plan – If you are planning a move, you need a solid, workable plan regarding your children’s visitation with their other parent. Going in without any type of solution is not going to do you any favors.
  • Your Children’s Ages – Your children’s ages (and their developmental stages) can affect how well they adapt to the move and/or how hard it will be on them.
  • The Distance You Plan on Moving – The farther you plan on moving away, the more difficult it will likely be for your children to see their other parent, which can make selling the court on your move more difficult.
  • The Motivation behind Your Move – If you are moving for a better-paying job that will allow you to provide your children with more abundant opportunities, it could bolster your case. As mentioned, the court will be on the lookout for bad faith motivations that are intended to hamper an ex’s ability to spend time with his or her children.
  • How Destabilizing the Move Will Be – The court generally finds that children thrive on routine, and it will take the destabilizing element of your proposed move into consideration.
  • Your Children’s Separate Relationships with Both of You – The court will carefully assess each child’s bond with each of you.
  • You and Your Ex’s Relationship and Ability to Communicate with One Another – If you can demonstrate that you have cultivated a civil relationship with your ex that has fostered open communication, the court may be more inclined to believe that you will continue to do so after the move.
  • Your Ability to Put Your Kids’ Needs First – If you have consistently put your children’s needs before your own, the court may be moved to support your request.
  • Your Children’s Wishes in the Matter – If your children are old enough and mature enough to weigh in, the court will at least consider their preferences.
  • The Amount of Time Your Children Spend with Their Other Parent – The more time your children spend with their other parent, the more heavily the court will weigh this factor.
  • Your Children’s Health and Education Needs – If there are any extenuating circumstances that would make the move either positively or negatively affect your children’s health and/or education, the court will take it under advisement.
  • Your Children’s Ties to the Community – The stronger your children’s ties to their community, the stronger this will factor in. if, however, the move will provide your children with more opportunities to bond with members of their extended family, that, too, can play a role.

It’s a lot, but when you take the time to consider each of these important factors in relation to your proposed move, it can help you strategize a stronger move-away custody case.

The Most Important Step You Can Take

While it is critical that you have a game plan before plowing forward with a child custody modification in support of a move, the single most important thing you can do to help ensure that you are ultimately allowed to move with your children is working closely with an experienced California child custody attorney. Your dedicated attorney understands the complex legal mechanics of these often difficult cases, and he or she will help guide you in the right direction – throughout the legal process.

Consult with an Experienced California Child Custody Attorney Today

If you have your sights set on a move with your children, you have your work cut out for you, but having an accomplished California child custody attorney in your corner can greatly improve your chances of obtaining the child custody modification that you seek.