When parents share joint custody of their children, one party’s desire or need to relocate can require reevaluation of existing custody orders and can be an extremely complicated issue.
Recently, the California Court of Appeal for the Third District addressed a “move-away” issue in a case involving an unmarried couple and their minor daughter. After the parties’ relationship ended in December 2007, the mother moved to Washington with the child, then later returned to California. Upon her return, the father petitioned for custody of their daughter; in response, the mother filed a motion requesting permission to move back to Washington with their daughter. The trial court granted the parents joint legal and physical custody and denied mother’s request to move with the child. Thereafter, mother requested to move to Washington with the child several more times. At trial, she testified that she was moving to Washington because she had a job prospect and family support there. However, the court apparently did not believe that she would move without her daughter, and denied mother’s request to move with the child because it thought it would be disruptive to the child to leave her father and friends. Therefore, the prior joint custody order remained in place. It was impossible for mother to comply with the joint physical custody order if she moved to Washington, and therefore, the court’s decision effectively prohibited her from moving even without her daughter. The mother appealed and the appellate court found that the trial court order amounted to a coercive attempt to get the mother to change her plans to move. The court does not have the ability to prohibit a parent from moving, only to determine where the child should live as a result of the parent’s decision to move. They reversed and remanded the decision for reconsideration.
The appellate court noted that in joint custody cases, when a parent is considering a move that makes the existing custody plan unworkable, the court must consider the child’s best interests de novo and make a determination of what physical custody arrangement would be in the child’s best interests- either relocating with the moving parent or remaining with the non-moving parent and having visits with the moving parent. Then, the court must fashion an appropriate parenting plan that takes into account the fact that the parents live in separate states.
Jacob A. v. C.H., 196 Cal. App. 4th 1591 (2011).
The Certified Family Law Specialists* at Lonich Patton Ehrlich Policastri have decades of experience handling complex and heavily disputed custody issues like this one. If you are contemplating moving and have joint custody of your child, please contact the Certified Family Law Specialists* at Lonich Patton Ehrlich Policastri, who can provide you with an in-depth analysis of your issues. Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.
*Certified Family Law Specialist, The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization