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Can one parent move away with their children post-divorce?

On Behalf of | Aug 16, 2023 | Child Custody And Visitation

Divorces and breakups when children are still minors inevitably mean that a family’s circumstances change significantly. Oftentimes, parents negotiate very specific terms with one another related to how they will meet the children’s needs and share time with them post-divorce.

Typically, both parents will need to do their best to adhere to the standards set in their parenting plan and custody order. Of course, there are inevitably scenarios that arise that even the most thorough and complete parenting plan will not have accounted for ahead of time. For example, perhaps one of the parents starts a new relationship, inherits real property from a family member or receives a job offer in another state or hundreds of miles away. Can either of the parents in a shared custody scenario choose to move away with their children?

Relocations are possible but required planning

The California family courts do recognize that family circumstances change, and therefore parents may need to move to a new home after their divorce for a myriad of different reasons. Therefore, there is an official process for requesting permission to relocate when sharing custody. The parent proposing the move will need to provide written notice both to the other parent and to the family courts. The other parent has the option of agreeing with the request or disputing it. If they agree, the family can proceed with an uncontested modification to adjust the parenting plan based on the new living circumstances for one parent and the children.

If they worry that the move will damage their relationship with the children, they may dispute the request, and then the matter will go to family court. A California family law judge can look at both sides of the situation and then decide what would be in the best interests of the children. They may allow the relocation and rework the custody plan. Other times, they may require that the children remain in the area where they currently live and make changes to the custody plan so that the other parent can move while the children remain with the other parent.

As with any litigated custody matter, there’s never any guarantee of how a judge will respond, but many parents will be able to obtain permission to relocate provided that they have a valid reason for desiring the move and not just an intention to separate the other parent from their children. Learning more about California’s custody laws can make it easier for parents to navigate the challenges of shared custody after the end of their relationship, including move-away scenarios.