Can I Move If I Have Shared Custody?

Many divorced parents have shared physical custody of their children. Even in situations where one parent has sole physical custody, the noncustodial parent may have visitation rights. While every custody arrangement looks different, the most common custody situation is 50/50 shared custody. In these cases, the parents share equal time with their children.

The courts do everything in their power to help parents develop a custody arrangement that will serve them for the foreseeable future. Still, it is not uncommon for a family’s circumstances to change. For example, one parent may find it necessary to relocate out of the area. When this happens, the original custody order may no longer be appropriate for your situation.

What Happens if a Parent Has to Move Away?

Before a parent with shared custody can move away with their child, they must file a relocation request with the court and the child’s other parent. Even if the parent requesting the relocation believes that the move is in their and their child’s best interests, it is not guaranteed that the courts will agree.

When considering a relocation request, the courts consider:

  • The age of the child
  • How far away the proposed move will take the child
  • The child’s relationship with their other parent
  • Whether the child will be able to reasonably maintain their relationship with the other parent after the move
  • Why the parent is requesting the move
  • How the move will impact the existing custody order
  • How the move will affect the child’s other relationships, such as with family and friends
  • Whether the relocation will have an impact on the child’s financial security, educational needs, and other issues related to the child’s well-being

When considering relocation requests, the courts may also take the child’s wishes into account if deemed appropriate. However, the courts are not required to adhere to the child’s wishes. Instead, they are focused on whether the proposed move is genuinely in the child’s best interests.

It’s also important to remember that the courts will look at both the original custody arrangement and the current custody/visitation schedule when reviewing relocation requests. Though the original custody order bears some weight, the current schedule the parents are following may be taken into greater consideration.

Common Reasons for Relocation

Divorced parents find themselves needing to relocate for the same reasons that all families move. A better job, improved schooling opportunities, and proximity to family are all driving factors for relocation. These can become even more important post-divorce as parents look for ways to provide their children with the support and stability they need to thrive.

However, even though you may view your move as both necessary and in your child’s best interests, the other parent may disagree or feel conflicted about your proposed move. When this happens, they may contest the move.

Can a Parent Contest a Relocation Request?

According to the California courts, if one parent wants to move, regardless of whether they have sole or joint custody, the other parent can contest the move. In cases where the parent requesting the move has sole custody, the noncustodial parent will have to prove that the move will harm the children. In cases where the parents have joint custody, the parent requesting the move must establish that the move is in the child’s best interests.

If you disagree with your former partner’s request to move away with your children, you should reach out to a trusted attorney right away for guidance. Dealing with move-away requests can be very complicated, and it is recommended that you have legal representation throughout the process.