Everyone knows that parenting is a difficult job. If you are a divorced parent, the job is even more difficult. But what if you have to share custody of your child with your ex-spouse who lives in another state?
Without regard to the reason why a parent may choose to move out-of-state, sharing custody of a child in two different states will require the parents to create a comprehensive parenting strategy and a flexible visitation schedule.
CAN A COURT STOP A PARENT FROM MOVING TO ANOTHER STATE?
Most family courts in most states will not prohibit a parent from relocating to another state – but it can and has happened. Any modification to the custody order and parenting plan ordered by a California court must be approved by that court.
The court must determine how the child custody and visitation rights of the parents will be affected by a relocation, and the court must also ensure that any modification to the custody order and parenting plan is in the child’s best interests.
Generally speaking, a parent wishing to move out-of-state with a child must pass a two-part test:
1. First, show the court that the move is being made in good faith for legitimate reasons.
2. Secondly, show the court that the move is in the child’s best interests.
AFTER A DIVORCE, WHEN CAN CUSTODY BATTLES ERUPT?
A custody dispute may arise if a parent with a child’s sole or joint custody seeks to relocate far enough away that the current child custody and visitation arrangement becomes unworkable.
If the remaining parent does not agree to the move, that parent may choose at that time to seek custody by requesting a modification of the court’s child custody order.
If you are a parent on either side of a child custody, visitation, or relocation dispute in southern California, you are going to need the advice, insights, and guidance of a family law attorney. Get that legal help as early as possible.
HOW IS A VISITATION SCHEDULE MODIFIED?
When one parent wants to relocate to another state, creating a fair, reasonable, and flexible schedule for visitations is often the key to avoiding or resolving a legal dispute.
Even when a child’s parents are living in adjacent neighborhoods, putting together a visitation schedule that works for everyone involved can be a nearly impossible task.
Obviously, it is a task that gets substantially tougher if great distances and different states must be taken into account.
If the parents cannot agree on a two-state child custody and visitation plan, a judge will impose a resolution that is in the best interests of the child.
WHAT IS CHILD CUSTODY MEDIATION?
First, however, that judge will order the parents to attend mediation. Mediation is an out-of-court procedure that gives the parents one last opportunity to reach their own voluntary agreement regarding child custody and visitation.
If the parents fail to find common ground in mediation, a child custody and visitation order will be issued by the court. That order will be binding on both parents.
Although it is rare, a California family court has the authority to deny a parent’s request to move to another state. If you are the relocating parent, the way that you present your request to the court can make the difference.
That is why you must be advised and represented by a California family lawyer who has abundant experience handling child custody cases, relocations, and modifications of custody and visitation orders.
WHAT DO COURTS CONSIDER WHEN A PARENT ASKS TO RELOCATE?
What will the court take into account when considering a parent’s relocation request? The questions a court may ask include but are not limited to the following:
1. Is the new area and the new residence comparable to the current area and residence?
2. Is the new location child-friendly? Are parks, libraries, and hospitals nearby?
3. Will there be opportunities for the child to make new friends?
4. Is the relocation temporary or permanent?
If you are the parent who is planning to relocate to another state, you cannot make that move abruptly, and you must plan ahead.
IF YOU RELOCATE, WHEN SHOULD YOU TELL THE OTHER PARENT?
You must inform your child’s other parent of your intention to relocate at least 45 days before you plan to make the move. Here is what the law says:
“To the extent feasible, the notice shall be provided within a minimum of 45 days before the proposed change of residence so as to allow time for mediation of a new agreement concerning custody.”
Of course, if you are the relocating parent, you must understand that if your child’s other parent challenges your relocation request, that challenge will probably take more than 45 days to resolve. You should notify your child’s other parent immediately when you decide to relocate.
Everyone understands that the future is unpredictable. When you choose divorce or learn that your spouse is divorcing you, it is impossible to know how your life will change over the next few years.
Even if neither parent moves out-of-state, child custody arrangements, parenting plans, and visitation schedules can – sometimes quickly – become impractical, burdensome, or outdated.
WHAT ELSE SHOULD THE COURT KNOW IN A CUSTODY CASE?
A divorced parent who is requesting or challenging the modification of a child custody order in California should bring any issues that are unique about your child to the attention of the court.
For instance, if your child has a learning disability, health issues, or behavioral problems, the court will need to know so that the court’s final decision is genuinely in the child’s best interests.
Child custody and visitation disputes are often acrimonious and are always emotionally difficult. That’s natural, of course, because your child’s safety and well-being is your top priority.
HOW WILL A FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY HELP?
If you need legal representation immediately, or if you merely need some guidance and legal advice for planning your family’s future, an experienced Long Beach family law attorney will address your concerns and help you choose the best options for yourself and your child.
Nothing is more important than your child. If you need legal help to ensure your child’s well-being, get that help immediately.