Can A Custodial Parent Move Out of State after a Divorce in California?
After a divorce, it's not uncommon for the custodial parent to consider moving to another state to start fresh, be closer to family, or pursue new opportunities. However, when children are involved, the process can become more complex. In California, specific rules govern the relocation of a custodial parent and their children. This article will explore the legal requirements and considerations that apply when a custodial parent wants to move out of state after a divorce in California.
Understanding California's Child Custody and Relocation Laws
In California, if a custodial parent wants to move out of state, they must consider the existing custody and visitation agreement. This is because the relocation can potentially have a large effect on the non-custodial parent's visitation rights, and the court will always prioritize the child's best interests when making decisions about custody and visitation.
Sometimes a custodial parent chooses to relocate on their own without notifying the other parent or the court. This is always a bad idea as it is considered self help. It is essential to notify the non-custodial parent and obtain their consent, or the court's approval, before moving. If the non-custodial parent opposes the move, they can file a motion to prevent the relocation.
Factors Considered by the Court in Relocation Cases
Clearly a move-away contest is a high-stakes court matter because often there is a clear “winner” and “loser” in the sense that there is not a lot of middle ground when the parents separate geographically by large distance.
There have been many move-away cases litigated, but the seminal case on point is Marriage of LaMusga (2004) 32 C4th 1072, 1094. The LaMusga factors, as they are called, include an evaluation of these items:
the children’s interest in stability and continuity in the custodial arrangement;
the distance of the move;
the age of the children;
the children’s relationship with both parents;
the relationship between the parents, including, but not limited to, their ability to communicate and cooperate effectively and their willingness to put the interests of the children above their individual interests;
the wishes of the children if they are mature enough for such an inquiry to be appropriate;
the reasons for the proposed move; and
the extent to which the parents currently are sharing custody
The court will balance and weigh all of these factors and determine whether the relocation is in the child's best interests. If the court finds that the move is justified and won't significantly disrupt the child's relationship with the non-custodial parent, they may grant the move.
Preparing for a Relocation Request
If you're a custodial parent considering a move out of state, it's essential to plan and prepare for the legal process:
Consult with an experienced family law attorney who can advise you on the specific rules and procedures that apply in California.
Provide the non-custodial parent with advance notice of your intention to move and attempt to reach an agreement regarding the relocation and any necessary modifications to the custody and visitation order as a mediated agreement is often much more satisfactory than a court ordered one.
Gather evidence to support your request, such as job offers, information about the new location's schools and community resources in the new location, and any other relevant factors demonstrating the move is in your child's best interests.
Be prepared to present your case in court if the non-custodial parent objects to the move and files a motion to prevent the relocation.
While a custodial parent can move out away after a divorce in California, it's crucial to navigate the legal process carefully and prioritize the child's best interests. The Law Office of James Chau is here to help you with all aspects of child custody and relocation cases. Contact us today for a consultation and expert guidance on your situation.