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  • Writer's pictureJames Chau

Move-Away Cases in California: Relocation with Children After Divorce

moving after divorce

Move-away or relocation cases present unique challenges for parents and courts when one parent wishes to relocate with their children after a divorce. California law prioritizes the child's best interests, which can make these cases legally intricate and emotionally charged.

Legal Considerations in Move-Away Cases

Family Code Section 7501 grants parents with physical custody the presumptive right to change their child's residence. However, this right is subject to the court's authority to prevent a relocation that could negatively impact the child's well-being or the other parent's rights​​. Courts will consider several factors before granting permission to relocate, emphasizing the child's best interests.  These factors are known as the LaMusga factors and are derived from the case Marriage of LaMusga (2006), 32 C4th at 1078, 12 CR3d at 359-360

Factors Courts Consider in Move-Away Cases

1.      Custody Arrangement and Stability

  • The existing custody arrangement (sole vs. joint physical custody)

  • The stability and continuity of the child's current living situation and school environment​

2.      Parental Motives and Reasons for the Move

  • Reasons behind the relocation, including career opportunities, education, family support, or a desire for a fresh start​.

3.      Impact on the Child's Relationship with the Non-Moving Parent

  • The effect of the move on the child's relationship with the non-moving parent and the feasibility of continued visitation and communication​

4.      Child's Age and Preferences

  • The child's age and preferences, if they are mature enough to express an informed opinion.

5.      Presence of Support Networks

  • The availability of extended family and support networks in both the current and proposed locations​

6.      Access to Healthcare and Education

  • Access to quality healthcare, schools, and specialized services required for the child's well-being.

7.      Parental Cooperation

  • Both parents' willingness and ability to communicate, cooperate, and put the child's interests ahead of their own.

Building a Strong Case

In move-away cases, the objective is to present a compelling argument that aligns with the child's best interests, whether allowing the relocation or preventing it.

Supporting Arguments for Relocation

To build a strong case in favor of relocation, providing evidence demonstrating that the proposed move is in the child's best interests is essential. Supporting arguments may include:

  • Better Educational Opportunities: Highlighting the quality of schools or specialized educational programs at the new location.

  • Improved Safety and Well-Being: Showing that the new environment offers a safer neighborhood or access to better healthcare facilities.

  • Family Support Network: Emphasizing the presence of extended family members or other support networks that will improve the child's quality of life.

  • Detailed Relocation Plan: Presenting a clear plan that includes secure housing, familiar surroundings, and practical arrangements for continued contact with the non-moving parent​​.

Opposing Arguments Against Relocation

Conversely, parents opposing relocation can strengthen their case by providing evidence that the move would negatively impact the child's well-being and existing relationships. Arguments against relocation may include:

  • Stability and Continuity: Emphasizing the importance of the child's current stable environment, including their school, healthcare providers, and social circle.

  • Impact on Relationship with the Non-Moving Parent: Demonstrating how the move would significantly hinder the child's ability to maintain a meaningful relationship with the non-moving parent.

  • Quality of Life Comparison: Comparing the quality of life between the current and proposed locations, including educational opportunities and healthcare access.

  • Parental Cooperation Issues: Highlighting past issues with the relocating parent's willingness or ability to facilitate the child's relationship with the other parent​​.

Comprehensive Co-Parenting Plan

Whether advocating for or against the move, developing a comprehensive co-parenting plan is crucial. This plan should include detailed decision-making processes, communication protocols, and visitation schedules that prioritize the child's best interests. Offering reasonable accommodations and anticipating objections can help strengthen your case.

Seek Legal Guidance

Navigating move-away cases can be daunting, but having a knowledgeable attorney can make all the difference. James Chau, a Certified Family Law Specialist by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, brings his extensive experience to help you navigate the complexities of relocation cases. His dedication to advocating for your rights and your child's best interests ensures that you receive tailored legal guidance every step of the way. Contact James Chau today at (408) 899-8364 or visit our contact page to schedule a consultation.

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