Is it difficult to relocate with a child after divorce?

A divorce is difficult for children, but it is also difficult for parents. Once a custodial parent has been determined and a custody schedule has been established, the key for both parents and children is to maintain consistency.

However, job opportunities and family changes arise. When they do, a parent may decide that relocation is the answer. If that parent is the custodial parent, can the carefully crafted custody schedule be changed?

What the court considers

While one parent has physical and legal custody, the other parent most often still has rights to see the children. In California, a parent who has plans to move with their children for longer than 30 days has to provide notice to the other parent at least 45 days before the move so they can work out a new custody schedule.

If the noncustodial parent doesn’t like the move, they can file an objection with the court and a judge will schedule a hearing to determine of the move is appropriate.

The judge’s main interest is the welfare of the child. The judge will examine:

  • The child’s need for stability
  • The distance of the move
  • The child’s relationship with the parents
  • The reasons for the move
  • The child’s educational, physical and emotional needs
  • The child’s relationship with extended family and the community

These factors are different in every case which means there is no set of rules but rather a group of guiding principles to make sure the child’s best interests are met.

How to manage the move

Because the judge will consider if the move is in the best interest of the child, there are some basic guidelines each parent can follow.

If you are the custodial parent, don’t make the move out of anger or spite at your former spouse. Give ample warning and don’t wait until the last moment to notify your ex about the move. Offer a new visitation schedule that accommodates the child’s other parent, including more time during the summer or during holidays.

If you disagree with your ex-spouse’s plan to move with your child, you should file an Order to Show Cause right away to ask the court to block the move. You should also exercise all your parental rights and spend as much time with your child as allowed. If you should reach an agreement with your ex outside of the court, make sure it is in writing and enforceable.

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