California Move-Away Laws

California Move-Away Laws

At Gigliotti Law Group, Los Angeles attorney Robert Gigliotti has dedicated his family law practice to helping those parents involved in move-away disputes. Whether you are a moving parent or stay behind parent, Los Angeles Family Law attorney Robert Gigliotti has gained the professional and personal experience needed to assist parents who are placed in this difficult situation.

Move-away laws in California are complicated and confusing, and there are many factors involved in the outcome. The purpose of this web page is to provide you with an overview of how a move-away case proceeds in court, and what a judge will consider when making this most difficult decision.

If you are on either the moving parent, or stay behind parent to a possible move-away, you should contact an experienced family law attorney who is particularly experienced in child custody and move-away cases.

What Is a “Move-Away?”

A “move-away case” arises when a parent that has joint or sole custody of the child decides to move to a location that is far enough away to disrupt the current custodial arrangement. Whether the move is 30 miles away or 3000 miles away, if the move will impact the current custody situation, the parents will need new custody and visitation orders.

What Happens when a Divorced Parent Wants to Move Away with a Child?

When a divorced parent wants to move away with a child, one of the parents files a motion with the court for new custody orders. The moving parent might file for permission to move with the child, or the other parent might file a motion for a change of custody so that the child can stay.

Before this issue goes to a judge, the parents must mediate the issue to try and reach an agreement about where the child will live and what the visitation arrangements will be with the other parent. If the parents can’t agree, then there will be a hearing for the court to make new orders.

It is important to remember that in a move-away case, the court does not decide whether the parent can move– people have a Constitutional right to move and the court can’t prevent them from doing so. Instead, the court has to decide whether the child should move with that parent and, if so, what the visitation arrangement should be.

What Do Courts Consider When Deciding Move-Away Cases?

The court’s approach to these decisions depends on whether the moving parent has sole custody of the child, or whether the parents have joint custody:

Joint Custody:  If the parents have joint custody, there’s no need to show changed circumstances for the court to change the custody order. Instead, the parents come to court on an even playing field, and the court will hold an evidentiary hearing to make a new custody decision based on the best interests of the child.

Sole Custody:  A parent with sole custody has a “presumptive right” to move with the child. This means there’s an assumption that the parent and child can move. Before the court can consider changing the custody order, the other parent has the burden to show that the move would be detrimental to the child, creating a change of circumstances and requiring a reevaluation of the custody order.

The court will look at evidence related to the following factors:

the importance that the child maintain a stable and continuous environment, considering factors like how much time the child spends with each parent under the current arrangement, how long the current custody order has been in place, as well as the child’s ties to friends, school, and community activities and any special needs the child has
the distance of the move
the child’s age
the child’s relationship with both parents
the relationship between the parents, including how well they communicate with each other, whether they’re able to put their child’s interests ahead of their own, and how likely the moving parent is to accommodate contact between the child and the other parent
where the child wants to live, if they are of an age and maturity level to make an intelligent preference, as discussed above, and
the reasons for the move (while the moving parent does not have to show that the move is necessary, if there is evidence that the purpose of the move is just to disrupt the relationship between the child and the other parent, the court may factor this reason into the decision).

Move-away cases are complicated and challenging, and there are no clear-cut rules to guide the court in making the decision. The goal is to create an arrangement that will be best for the children and allow them to have a continuing relationship with both parents, even when there is distance between them.

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Los Angeles Lawyer Robert Gigliotti has developed a unique civil and family law practice located in Encino, California representing Southern California Clients in Family Law and Divorce, Civil Litigation, Personal Injury Law, and Estate Planning since 1991.

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