Mother's Relocation For A Job Was Not In The Best Interests Of Children

Mother's Relocation For A Job

When custody is involved, an interstate move (even for career purposes) is subject to court approval. A recent Southern California case illustrates this point.

After a divorce, one child custody issue that may arise is the question of relocation. One parent may wish to relocate, for example, due to employment opportunities, or to receive help from family members that live elsewhere.

However, a move that interferes with the other parent's custody or visitation will require court approval and must be in the best interests of the children. The recent California Court of Appeal case of In re Marriage of Warren demonstrates how a court might analyze a relocation request.

A mother wishes to relocate

The parents were married approximately seven years and had two children. The divorce stipulated joint legal and physical custody of the children, with the father having the children three nights a week and on alternating weekends.

Approximately four years after the divorce, the mother wished to relocate the children from Ventura to Orange County. The mother claimed she needed to relocate because the only teaching job she could find was in Orange County. She claimed the father had initially approved the relocation, but changed his mind when she made a negative comment about the father's girlfriend. In turn, the father alleged that the move was not for employment, but, rather, so that the mother could be closer to her boyfriend.

The trial court denied the relocation request, ordering a change in the children's custody arrangement if the mother moved away, giving the mother physical custody every other weekend during the school year and alternating weeks during the summer. The mother appealed.

Was a relocation in the best interests of the children?

The California Court of Appeal noted that the parents had joint physical custody, so no presumption in favor of the mother would apply to the proceedings. Both the father and a mediator engaged in earlier proceedings agreed that current physical custody time was approximately equal.

The trial court had carefully considered the declarations and testimony of both parents as well as the testimony of a custody mediator. The co-parenting relationship was working and the children were connected to their school community through friends and activities. They also had a bond with extended family in Ventura County that would be disrupted by a move. One child had special needs and had an education plan in place to meet those needs.

The trial court found that although the mother's stated need for employment was genuine, the children's need for stability as well as the distance of the proposed move, among other factors, indicated that the best interests of the children would be served by staying in Ventura County. Therefore, the trial court's order denying the move-away request was affirmed.

Understanding your rights

Whether you wish to relocate your children or are opposing such a request, you need the representation of an attorney who understands the process and has extensive experience with the modification of custody orders. Seek attorneys who are certified family law specialists, who can help you fully understand your rights regarding the possible relocation of your children.

Contact Burch, Coulston & Shepard, LLP

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