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If My Ex Moves Away, What Happens to Our Children?

If your ex moves away, what happens? Child custody and visitation arrangements can be challenging when you first separate from your children’s other parent. As time passes, those arrangements may need to change for various reasons. For instance, if one parent wants to move to a different county or out-of-state, the parents may need or want to revisit the current custody and visitation arrangements. These issues may quickly become hotly contested. As a result, you should contact a California family law attorney at Evans Kingsbury LLP to explore your options for resolving your child custody and visitation matter.

Custody Orders and the Right to Move

A parent’s legal rights to move with children depend on the type of custody order in place, if any. Under California Family Code § 7501, a parent with sole or primary custody of a child generally has the right to change a child’s residence. However, if the other parent can show that the move would negatively affect the child, the court can issue an order restraining the parent with custody from moving with the child.

On the other hand, if parents share joint physical custody of children, or both parents have significant periods in which they have custody of the children, then neither parent has a presumptive legal right to move with the children. If a parent wishes to move with the children, and the other parent disagrees, then the parent must prove their proposed move is in the children’s best interests.

Finally, if there are no court orders about custody or visitation, a parent’s intended move with children will likely prompt custody and visitation proceedings. Ultimately, a court cannot stop a parent from moving wherever they choose. However, a parent’s choice to move, particularly if the parent intends to move out of state or a long distance from the other parent’s residence, can affect a court’s decisions about child custody and visitation.

Filing a Move-Away Request with the Court

A parent who shares joint physical custody of children in California must notify the court of an intended move by filing a move-away request. Additionally, a parent who intends to move must give written notice to the other parent at least 45 days in advance of the intended move. This notice allows the other parent to object to the parent’s proposed move with the children.

The court will schedule a hearing date and give the parties time to negotiate a new custody and visitation arrangement. If the parties cannot agree, the court may order an evaluation to determine whether the parent’s proposed move and the new custody and visitation schedule are in the children’s best interests.

    Ultimately, the court will use the same “best interests” standard used in any custody case to decide what custody arrangements are best for the children considering the parent’s intended move. Some of the factors that the court might weigh in reaching its decision can include:
  • • The reasons for the parent’s move, such as employment, proximity to family members, or to be with a significant other;
  • • The distance between the parents’ residences following the move;
  • • How much time the children currently spend with each parent;
  • • The children’s relationship with each parent;
  • • The parents’ ability to work together and communicate for their children’s best interests;
  • • The impact of the move on the children’s health, stability, and quality of life; and
  • • The children’s preferences, if they are old enough to articulate a preference, usually at about age 12 or older.

Generally, a parent with good reasons for a move is more likely to successfully retain custody of children if the other parent objects to the move. For instance, a parent’s intended move may be justified if their employer requires the parent to transfer to another job location or if the parent is returning to their home state to be near family members. Conversely, moving across the country to live with a significant other they met online is less likely to justify a proposed move.

If Your Ex Moves Away, Call a Family Law Attorney for Legal Advice

When your ex informs you that they plan to move with the children, or if you want to move with the children, we can help you determine how that move will impact your children and the current custody and visitation arrangements. An experienced family lawyer from Evans Kingsbury LLP has the knowledge and skills that you need to determine your legal rights and options in this situation. We can evaluate your case, explore your alternatives, and assist you in taking any steps necessary to change your custody or visitation orders. Contact us today by calling (707) 596-6090 or reaching out to us online to schedule a meeting with us about your case.

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