Relocation Challenges in California Custody Cases: What You Should Expect

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Relocation Challenges in California Custody Cases: What You Should Expect

Relocating with a child after a divorce or separation is a complex issue in California, often laden with emotional and legal challenges. You’re not just looking for a new home; you’re also fundamentally altering how much time your children can spend with each of their parents. Whether you are a custodial parent looking to move for a new job, closer family ties, or simply a fresh start, understanding the intricacies of move-away cases in the context of California custody laws is essential. 

That’s why we’ve put together the following guide, explaining why moving can be particularly tricky with custody orders in place and how move-away cases are handled in the state.

The Complexities of Moving with Child Custody Orders

In California, both parents have rights and responsibilities towards their children, and any decision impacting a minor’s living situation, including parental relocation, must prioritize the child’s best interest. The legal system aims to ensure that the minor maintains a stable and continuous relationship with both parents, which is considered vital for their development and well-being.

When a custodial parent wishes to relocate with the children, especially to a distance that could disrupt the current custody arrangement and the non-custodial parent’s ability to maintain a regular visitation schedule, the situation becomes legally complex. The challenge stems from balancing one parent’s right to move for legitimate reasons with the child’s best interest and the rights of the other parent.

Legal Framework for Move-Away Cases

California law does not prohibit custodial parents from moving. However, if the move will significantly impact the non-custodial parent’s time with the kids, the person with custody must first notify the other parent of their intention to move. Ideally, both parents can agree to the relocation and any necessary modifications to the custody and visitation schedule. If an agreement cannot be reached, the matter must be brought before the court.

The leading case that shapes move-away disputes in California is In re Marriage of Burgess (1996), which affirmed that the custodial parent has the presumptive right to change the residence of the children. However, this presumption can be challenged if the non-custodial parent can show that the move would be detrimental to the child’s best interests.

Handling Move-Away Cases

When a move-away case is brought before a California court, several factors are considered to determine whether the relocation should be permitted. These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • The child’s age and the child’s relationship with both parents: The court examines the depth of children’s relationships with each parent and how the move might affect these relationships.
  • The reason for the move: The custodial parent’s motive for relocating is scrutinized, including whether the move is in good faith and not intended to disrupt the child’s relationship with the other parent.
  • The reason the non-moving parent opposes the move: Why the other person believes that a move would either violate their own rights or not be in the best interests of their children.
  • The distance of the move: The impact of the move on the current custody and visitation arrangement is a critical factor. The greater the distance, the more challenging it may be to maintain frequent and regular contact with both parents.
  • The child’s interest: Ultimately, children’s health, safety, welfare, and happiness are the paramount concerns. The court will consider how the move might benefit or harm these interests.
  • The ability of the parents to communicate: How well both adults are able to cooperate parenting matters.

In handling move-away cases, the court may order a reevaluation of the custody and visitation arrangement to accommodate the move while still attempting to preserve the child’s relationship with both parents. This might include altering visitation schedules or leveraging technology for virtual visits.

Depending on the court’s assessment, several outcomes are possible. The court may allow the custodial parent to move with the child, possibly with modifications to the custody and visitation schedule to ensure ongoing contact with the other parent. However, if the court finds that the move would significantly harm the child’s relationship with the other parent or is not in the their best interest, the request to relocate can be denied. In some cases, the court may also determine that changing the custody arrangement, potentially designating the non-moving parent as the primary custodian, is in the child’s best interest.

If the move is allowed, the court will likely modify the existing custody and visitation orders to reflect the new circumstances. This modification could include longer but less frequent visitation periods and possibly provisions for virtual communication to maintain the minor’s relationship with the other parent.

Given the complexities and potential for significant impact on the child’s life and parental relationships, individuals involved in move-away cases are strongly encouraged to seek legal representation. A skilled attorney can provide guidance tailored to the specific circumstances of the case, helping to navigate the legal process and advocate for the client’s and the child’s best interests.

Make Moving and Child Custody Order Modification Easier With CC LawGroup

Relocation in the context of California custody cases is a nuanced issue that requires careful consideration of all parties’ rights and the overarching principle of the child’s best interest. For parents considering a move, it is advisable to seek legal counsel to navigate the complexities of move-away cases and to explore all options for resolving the issue in a manner that supports the children’s well-being and maintains parental relationships.If you’re preparing to move to or from California but have a custody order in place, we encourage you to get in touch with the experienced child custody attorneys at CC LawGroup. Our skilled team of professionals has decades of experience supporting families during move-away cases, child custody modifications, and other disputes. Let us assist you with updating your custody order to reflect the best interests of your children; learn how by scheduling your consultation today.