Are you or your former partner considering a move with your kids?
Moving with kids is complicated. The parent attempting to move with their children can be seen as a threat to the other parent, as the move likely will interfere with parenting time.
This is called a move-away or relocation case, and is something the family lawyers here at Moradi Saslaw LLP deal with often. Unless both parents agree to the move, parents who wish to move with their children must seek permission from the court before doing so.
The consequences of a court’s ruling in a move-away case can have a profound impact on both parents and children. We help parents hoping to prevent move-aways as well as parents seeking to relocate. We also help domestic partners involved in move-away disputes.
How do move-away disputes work?
There have been many reported decisions on the subject of move-aways, and the law is constantly evolving in this complex area. In general, move-away cases are decided with the following analytical framework:
- If no custody order exists yet, or the previous custody order is a temporary custody order, the court’s decision will determine what arrangement is in the best interests of the child.
- If a final, or permanent, custody order already exists, the legal standard which the court uses depends on the current type of custody plan.
- If the parents are sharing physical custody of the child, the decision is based on what is in the best interests of the child.
- If one parent has physical custody of the child, it may be easier for that parent to obtain court permission to move with the child. In such cases, the non-custodial parent may be successful in preventing the move if he or she can prove to the court that:
- The custodial parent’s reasons for moving are in bad faith. The prime example of this is that the custodial parent is moving to try to reduce the non-custodial parent’s time with the children.
- The move would be detrimental to the child. The court must consider the effect the move will have on the child’s relationship with the other parent after the move.
What do courts consider in move-away disputes?
Courts will determine whether to grant a move-away request based on a number of factors, including the following:
- The reason for the proposed move
- The child’s interest in stability and continuity in the custodial arrangement
- The distance of the move
- The age of the child
- The child’s relationship with both parents
- The relationship between the parents including their ability to communicate and cooperate effectively and their willingness to put the interests of the child above their individual interests
- The wishes of the child if he or she is mature enough for such an inquiry to be appropriate
- The current custody arrangement
- Which parent is more likely to encourage frequent and continuing contact with the other parent
- The child’s community ties
- The child’s health and educational needs
- The child’s circle of friends
What if we can’t agree?
If the parents are unable to agree to a custody arrangement, a custody evaluation is performed by a psychologist or other mental health profession. Typically, the custody evaluator will evaluate both parents’ proposed custody proposals. A custody evaluation will proceed in several stages and over a period of time (usually three months, but sometimes longer and sometimes shorter). It is common, though not necessarily obligatory, that the evaluation process includes the following parts:
- Interviews of parents
- Interview of child
- Observation of parent-child interaction/home visits
- Psychological testing of parents
- Interviews of third parties, such as family friends, teachers, and doctors
- Review of reports and documents (e.g. academic school records)
Courts generally place great weight on the custody evaluation and its recommendations. Therefore it is essential to work with an attorney who understands the evaluation process and properly helps you in preparing for it. Moradi Saslaw LLP will help you prepare for the custody evaluation, from negotiating for a specific evaluator, to explaining the process, to coaching you on how to proceed during the evaluation.