When Parents Decide to Move Away

Child custody is often the most hotly contested aspect of divorce. This can be especially true when a divorcing spouse chooses to move away. When this happens, the case is considered a parental relocation or move away case, and as expected, there are numerous aspects of the case that must be ironed out.

When Parents Decide to Move Away

Parental relocation is an important factor to consider in terms of divorce and child custody agreements in Los Angeles. Often, when parents divorce, one parent will decide to move to another city or state – to pursue higher education, to be closer to family or to accept a promotion or reassignment at work.

If that parent has sole physical custody or joint legal custody of his or her children, the move can end up causing a serious dispute with the other parent due to the fact that it may affect the existing custody or visitation arrangement. As a result, the parent being left behind may take steps to prevent the children from being relocated.

Depending on the terms of your child custody and parental visitation agreement, you may be able to request permission from the court to relocate with your children to another city or state. However, the court is given broad discretion when determining the outcome of Los Angeles relocation cases.

Your Parental Rights in California Move-Away Situations

A relocation or move-away case in Los Angeles occurs when one divorced parent asks for permission from the court to move his or her children far enough away that the relocation disrupts an established custodial or parental visitation agreement, meaning the other parent would be prevented from having or seeing the children as often as the existing custody arrangement allows.

The rights of each divorced parent in California move-away or relocation situations depends on the terms of the custody agreement established by the court. For instance, under California Family Code § 7501, a parent with sole physical custody of his or her children has the presumptive right to change the children’s residence, so long as the relocation doesn’t “prejudice the rights or welfare” of the children. In fact, the so-called custodial parent in this situation doesn’t even have to show any “necessity” to move, assuming that he or she is moving in good faith. For a noncustodial parent to challenge a relocation in this situation, he or she would have to request a custody modification from the court by proving a substantial change in circumstances that makes a change of custody necessary to the welfare of the children. In situations where the divorced parents have joint legal custody, or where no final custody order has been issued, it is up to the court to determine what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the children and rule on the move-away matter on the basis of that decision.

What the Court Considers in Relocation Hearings

If you are divorced and you share custody or your children’s other parent has visitation rights, and you are considering moving with your children, you will be required to file a move-away petition with the Los Angeles family court. Generally speaking, in California relocation proceedings, the court will consider the effect the move is expected to have on the children in question as the primary factor in deciding the case. Among the factors the court will consider in a Los Angeles relocation case are:

  • The children’s health and well-being
  • The parent’s financial stability
  • The reason for the move
  • The distance of the move
  • The age of the children
  • The children’s wishes, depending on their ages
  • The impact the move will have on the children’s relationship with the noncustodial parent
  • The psychological impact of the move on the children
  • The social impact of the move on the children
  • The parents’ existing custody arrangement
  • The impact of the move on the children’s education

Real Life Examples

Three Examples of Relocation Court Cases:

  1. A mother applied to relocate herself and her daughter. While bona fide reasons for the move were presented, the court ruled that the practicalities of the relocation were ill-researched. This lack of planning was outweighed by the fact that the child did not want to move away from the other parent.
  2. After a lot of back and forth and deliberation, a court rejected a father’s application for relocation with his daughter. During the divorce and custody proceedings, the father alleged the mother had sexually abused their daughter. Based on these findings, in addition to other factors, the father was awarded custody of his daughter. After several years of upholding the custody ruling the father sought to move to Israel. The mother initially gave her consent because she was led to believe she would be still be allowed contact with her child. She later withdrew the consent to the move when she realized that her belief was false. The court refused the relocation pleas based on the fact that the father could not provide sufficient information about what would happen once they relocated. He was unable to give details on when and where he would be employed, where the child would be going to school and how she would be assisted to learn Hebrew. The court also discovered during the trial that the father had been thwarting attempts by the mother to rebuild her relationship with her daughter. As part of the final ruling, the court emphasized the fact that it was important for the mother and child to keep working on re-establishing their relationship.
  3. A court rejected a mother’s application to relocate with her four children, aged eleven and eight (triplets). The parents had been awarded joint custody as part of the divorce settlement agreement. In that settlement, the intention was that both parents would have equal time with the children. Following the divorce, the wife filed an urgent application to declare her as the children’s primary caregiver while also granting her the ability to relocate the children from South Africa to Dubai to live with a new man whom she planned to marry. In the end, the court decided to leave it to the children, ruling that they were of age and maturity to make an informed decision. They wanted to be able to spend time with their father. The mother’s application was dismissed as the court found that it was not in the children’s best interests.

As always, when it comes to decisions involving children, the court will always look for what’s in the child’s best interest. This can often be very difficult for parents, but ultimately what is best for the child.

How an Experienced Move-Away and Relocation Lawyer Can Help

In the state of California, what the court deems to be in the best interests of the children in question has a significant bearing on all child custody decisions, and the judge presiding over your Los Angeles relocation case has a great deal of discretion when determining how to rule on such cases. There are also important issues that can complicate the outcome of parental move-away cases, including the modification of custody and visitation agreements and the potential for one parent’s relocation to violate the custodial rights of the other parent. For these reasons and others, it is imperative that you have a knowledgeable attorney on your side who has experience litigating Los Angeles divorce relocation cases, whether you are the parent who wants to move away with your children or the parent who wishes to oppose the other parent’s relocation.

The separation of a household following a Los Angeles divorce and the ensuing custody battle can be traumatic enough for both the parents and children involved. Add in a significant geographical relocation, and the process can become even more stressful. There are many different factors that will play into the court’s decision in relocation and move-away cases in California, and having a team of experienced Los Angeles family law lawyers on your side can significantly improve your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome in court. Our family law attorneys at Divorce Lawyers Los Angeles are committed to protecting the custodial rights of divorced parents in Los Angeles, and we will do everything we can to help you reach a favorable solution to your relocation issue.

Free Parental Relocation Consultation in Los Angeles

It’s not hard to imagine how one parent relocating children away from their other parent can be the cause of contention between the former spouses, and how a case involving such contentious issues can end up at trial. Regardless of the actual distance of the move, if a parent’s relocation adversely impacts the agreed-upon custody arrangement, it could end up being a matter that must be decided on by the court. Whether you are the parent requesting a new custody or visitation order to allow for a move, or the parent challenging a relocation order in Los Angeles, don’t hesitate to get legal help. Our attorneys at Divorce Lawyers Los Angeles have extensive experience handling all types of family law situations in Southern California, including those resolved during negotiation, in third-party mediation or at trial, and we can help you get the best possible outcome in your California move-away case. Contact our legal team today at (213) 550-4600 to discuss your legal options with a qualified Los Angeles divorce lawyer.

Divorce Lawyers Los Angeles

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