The basic fact to keep in mind is that California family courts cannot prevent a parent from moving away on their own. Under the United States Constitution, all adults are permitted to freely travel and move about the country, even if they share joint custody of children. As a result, family courts cannot resolve a move-away dispute by restraining a parent from moving.
The family court can, however, make custody decisions about a child based on the assumption that a parent is going to move. (Marriage of Paillier (2006) 144 Cal. App. 4th 461, 464.) The court cannot restrict the right of the parent to move, but makes a determination on whether they may move the child. Custodial parents only have a presumptive right to relocate with their children – this right is not absolute, even if they have sole custody.
Can One Parent Just Decide to Move and Then Take the Kids?
Generally, a parent can move with a child so long as the relocation doesn’t interfere with the current custody arrangement. In addition, the move must not be detrimental to the child’s rights or best interests. When it comes to moving away with a child, parents who share joint custody are restricted by the terms of their custody order.
If the parents currently share joint physical custody, they enter the courtroom on a level playing field. In such a case, the court must approach the move-away case de novo. In other words, the court essentially decides from scratch what custody arrangement is in the child’s best interest (see California Family Code 3011, 3020, 3040).
California courts will consider your custody arrangement anew based on the circumstances of your move and the best interests of your children. For this exercise, the courts will analyze a new parenting schedule assuming that the parent moves.
In other words, assuming that the parent moves, what custody schedule would be in the best interests of the children, and what would be best for the child in terms of which parent they live with.
When deciding a move-away case, California family courts will consider a litany of things, including:
- How far you’re moving away
- The reasons you’re moving
- Whether the move will present a detriment or benefit to your children
- Whether the move is ultimately in your children’s best interests
- The age of your children and their relationship with each parent
- The children’s interest in continuity and stability in their home life
- The parents’ ability to cooperate and communicate effectively
- How custody is currently split between the parents
- The preference of the children if they are mature enough for such an inquiry to be appropriate
Whether you are the moving or non-moving parent, both parties come to a “level playing field” at the child custody hearing. Here, you get a chance to negotiate a new custody arrangement.
Move away cases are very complex legal matters. They can be particularly frustrating, because the law can be very confusing and move-away orders can be difficult to obtain if both parents want to be involved in their child’s life.
If you have your sights set on a move with your children, you have your work cut out for you, but having a knowledgeable California child custody attorney in your corner can greatly improve your chances of obtaining the result that you seek.
Call the move away and relocation attorneys Talkov Law at (844) 4-TALKOV (825568) or contact us online for a free consultation about your case. Our attorneys have been able to help parents come to child custody agreements when possible, and litigated custody cases when necessary throughout the State of California.