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Can I relocate with my child after the divorce?

When a couple gets a divorce or separates, it naturally changes the family dynamic. Many parents consider relocating, whether to begin a new job or a new chapter in life. A judge cannot force a parent to stay in the state, however, they will alter the custody to serve a child's needs.

Cases that require divorce modification often have the potential to reopen old wounds and revisit hostilities that were present during the divorce process. California prioritizes the best interest of the child when making these changes.

Understanding custody arrangements

There are many different options for custody arrangements in California. Relocation will depend on your arrangement. Joint legal custody refers to when both parents can make decisions for the child. On the other hand, when both parents get roughly equal time with their child, it is known as joint physical custody.

A parent with sole custody has the exclusive authority in making decisions for the child, while a non-custodial parent only gets visitation, with no decision-making authority on matters that concern the child.

Non-custodial relocation

This parent can relocate at any time, but cannot relocate with the child. Some custody arrangements may not allow non-custodial parents to take children across state lines. This is often the case when the non-custodial has a problematic history of interfering with custodial matters, or other circumstances that negatively impact the child.

Sole custody relocation

California does not restrict a parent with sole custody from relocating. However, parenting plans and custody orders may have specific limitations to relocation. Parents must comply with the terms of their custody agreement, and if it does not touch on the issue of relocation, the parent must file a request to move the child. The judge may rule in favor of the parent with sole custody because the move is less likely to significantly interfere with the child's well-being. The judge may also include an order that protects the visitation rights of the other parent.

Joint custody relocation

When the parent with the primary physical custody wants to relocate, they must file a request with the court, where they will outline the intention behind the move. The non-custodial parent can object to the request, and then a judge will decide whether the move is best for the child. If the judge rules that the move is not in the best interest of the child, the court will issue a ruling that says the parent cannot relocate with the child.

The child's best interest is always the priority in a request to relocate. The court will consider why the parent wants to move, the child's age, the distance of the move, among other conditions regarding the situation.

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