If a custodial parent relocates with a child after a divorce or breakup, it can complicate a child custody situation and create potential legal disputes with the noncustodial parent. When the parents cannot reach agreements on their own, the courts will have to intervene and determine if the relocation is in the best interests of the child. To better understand this issue, below are some important things to know about child custody relocation laws in Washington State.
In general, family law courts must allow custodial parents to relocate as they wish with their children; this is especially true when the move is within a child's existing school district. But if the noncustodial parent can prove that the move's negative effects on the children would outweigh any potential positive effects, the courts might limit where or how far the custodial parent may relocate.
In this scenario, the courts will take a variety of factors into account. Among other considerations, they will look at each parent's relationship with the child; the terms of the existing child custody agreement; and whether the reasons for and against the relocation are both valid, good-faith arguments.
The noncustodial parent may not want the child to move away as it could have a very real and damaging impact on their relationship. If a custodial parent is moving the child to a location outside the existing school district, they must provide the noncustodial parent with a written notice of the move at least 60 days in advance. From there, the noncustodial parent can file an objection with the court within 30 days. Once the court receives the formal objection, there will be a hearing scheduled, and a judge will hear both sides of the dispute and render a verdict.
If the custodial parent fails to provide the 60-day notice and moves with the child without informing the other parent, the courts can impose several penalties, from a contempt citation to issuing an order that the custodial parent move back to the area. Grandparents might also object to a grandchild being moved out of the area, but, unfortunately, their rights are limited. Unless grandparent visitation is written into the child custody agreement, then the rights of the parents will always take precedence.
If you're involved in a child custody dispute over relocation, trust McPherson & McPherson Attorneys at Law. Since 1997, Attorney Molly McPherson has been serving the Island County, WA, area. She offers representation in all manner of family law cases, including divorces, custody and child support determinations, and guardianships. Call (360) 678-4407 or visit her firm's website to schedule a consultation.