Can I Relocate My Kids Out of State During Divorce Proceedings?
If there’s one thing that parents can agree on, it’s that their children’s’ safety and wellbeing is always top priority. It’s one reason why the divorce process can be so stressful– none of was want to cause our children stress or harm. Some of us may even be responsible for protecting our children from risks that their other parent presents.
If you’ve found that you may need (or want) to relocate out of state during divorce proceedings, it’s important that you understand your rights. Your eligibility to move hinges on several factors. Custody, the child’s wellbeing, and a range of other considerations all play into who is allowed to take a child where.
A Brief Overview of California’s Divorce and Custody Laws
The laws that surround divorce cases in California are complicated, fluid, and complex. It’s important to work closely with a trustworthy lawyer who can inform and educate you throughout the legal process. Your children should never face risk because of a system’s complexity– you can find a legal partner who will support your child’s best interests.
At Pedrick Law Group, we offer a range of legal representation and consultation services. We regularly serve divorced and divorcing parents and work closely with families to create the healthiest circumstances for their children.
While California’s divorce and custody laws can be tricky to understand, they can often be boiled down to:
- A parent who has a permanent order for sole physical custody (also known as primary physical custody) can move away with their children…
- …UNLESS the other parents can show that the move would cause harm to the children
Issues often arise when custody orders are not clear. Sometimes it’s difficult to ascertain whether an order is permanent or temporary. This is one reason why it’s important to consult a legal professional about your case as soon as possible.
Is It Legal for A Parent to Move Out of State Without the Other Parent’s Permission?
If there is no custody order in place, it is legal for a parent to move out of state (with their child or children) without the other parent’s permission. Our legal system grants both parents of a child equal rights when it comes to possession of and access to the child. Parents may make decisions regarding their children without any consultation or notification.
If you find yourself concerned that your spouse may attempt to relocate your child during divorce proceedings, it’s important to acquire a court order as soon as possible. This order will clearly identify the rights of each parent (and place legal responsibility on parties who breach the order).
The Difference Between Leaving a State and Relocation
Some divorced (or divorcing) parents are confused by the language and rules that guide the process. If a custody order is meant to keep children from being relocated out of state, it does not mean that they must remain in-state at all times. The parent that has the child is in charge of their time. The parent and the child are at liberty to leave the state during this time.
This, of course, is separate from the actual relocation process. Relocation involves a move out of state and a change of address. Visiting or spending time in another state is not synonymous with relocation.
We have a custody order in place– can I keep the other parent from leaving the state with my child?
Usually, no– due to the rules outlined above.
Some circumstances do warrant negotiations and certain restrictions, though. Courts do put travel restrictions in place when it seems like the safest decision for the child. Courts also work to place restrictions on a case-by-case basis if extenuating circumstances come into play.
My Divorce Petition Has Been Filed and Served– Can I Relocate My Children Out of State?
Once your divorce petition has been filed and served, a handful of automatic temporary restraining orders (known as ATROs) go into effect. ATROs prevent parents from removing their children from the state without the written consent of the other parent (or the court). This means that, in most cases, it’s best to leave moving plans on hold.
Some parents are curious about whether their spouse may be eligible to relocate their children out of state. If you are the Petitioner and believe that your spouse could move your children, automatic orders are not always enough. Family law attorneys can help parents obtain emergency court orders or involve the authorities if it becomes necessary.
What is your custody agreement? What are your child’s (or children’s) best interests?
You may eventually find that, during your divorce case, some factor prompts you to relocate out of state. This could be a job opportunity, an emergency that impacts extended family, or a range of other scenarios. You may want to take your child with you during relocation. It’s important to recognize that two key factors play a big role in determining whether it’s in a child’s best interest to move out of state:
- Do you have sole custody of the child?
- Is it in your child’s best interest to relocate out of state with you?
If you have sole custody
Parents granted sole custody retain the right to change that child’s residence. Exceptions arise when the court sees fit. Our courts have the power to prevent moves like these if necessary. If you wish to relocate yourself and your child out of state, the court must see that the relocation fits within the best interests of the child. When this is not the case, the move may be prevented.
What Factors Influence a Judge’s Decision in a Relocation Hearing?
Judges and courts consider a myriad of factors when they decide whether to permit a parent to relocate a child out of state. Some of the most critical amongst these include:
- The distance of the proposed move
- The child’s need to stability and continuity
- Potential harms that could arise from changes in custody
- The child’s relationship to both parents
- The parents’ relationship with each other (especially their communication)
- The reasons of the custodial parent for moving
- The child’s physical, emotional, and educational needs
- The child’s present family relationships as they relate to location
A Qualified Attorney Can Help
If you or somebody you know is currently struggling to relocate (or prevent relocation) during divorce proceedings, contact our offices today. At Pedrick Law Group, we’re committed to empowering our clients and taking steps to help keep their families safe. Potential clients can take advantage of a free initial consultation in order to find out more about their case and determine whether our team will be the best fit for your requirements.