The term “parental relocation” refers to when a custodial parent moves away with the children. If you obtained a divorce and your former spouse wants to move to another county or another state with your children, you’re probably wondering, “What does the law say about move-away actions? What are my rights? Do I have a say in the matter?”
If you’re the parent who wants to move with your children, you probably want to know, “Can my ex-spouse stop me? Will I lose my kids if I move without the other parent’s permission?” For starters, what is the custody arrangement? If one parent has sole physical custody and sole legal custody, he or she should be able to move with the children without any problems.
In contrast, if you have a joint physical and legal custody arrangement, that changes things significantly. Even if you don’t have a 50/50 physical custody arrangement, the non-custodial parent still has a right to voice their opinion and the court will want to know how he or she feels about such a move.
Do Custodial Parents Need the Court’s Approval?
Whenever a custodial parent does not have “sole custody” of the children, he or she should not move far away with the children without obtaining the court’s consent. Even if the non-custodial parent (the parent who pays child support) provides “verbal consent” to the move, that is insufficient.
In some cases, there is a clause or provision in the divorce documents that specifically states that the custodial parent cannot move beyond a certain number of miles or outside of specific geographical perimeters. For example, a custody agreement for one of our clients can say that a mother cannot move outside of Los Angeles or Ventura County with her children. Such provisions are not unusual in divorces involving minor children.
All over the country, non-custodial parents have said, “Go ahead and move,” only for them to use the move against the custodial parent in court. Then it becomes a case of “he said, she said” as the parents launch into a full-blown child custody battle.
Our advice to custodial parents is to refrain from moving without first seeking the court’s approval. Even if the other parent agrees to the move, you still don’t want to pack the moving van until you get the change approved by a judge and the changes reflected in a modification, which is officially signed by a judge and recorded by the family court.