Essentials to understand about parental relocation after a CA divorce

When parents divorce or separate in Torrance, California, they often struggle to find the arrangement that protects both of their rights while serving the best interests of the child. This can be an especially challenging task when the parent granted primary custody wishes to move away.

Parental relocation after divorce is not uncommon; according to the Washington Times, 75 percent of divorced mothers relocate at least once within four years of the separation. One-quarter of children with divorced parents live in a different state than one parent. Still, even if relocations are fairly common and sometimes necessary, California parents should be aware of the many legal complications they can introduce.

Relocation and the child's best interests

When one parent has been permanently awarded sole or primary physical custody, he or she can generally relocate with the child without the permission of the other parent, according to the California Courts website, unless it can be shown that the move may be harmful to the children. However, if parents share custody and one parent wishes to move with the children, he or she must give the other parent notice and obtain consent.

If one parent will not consent to the move, the issue must be decided in court. A judge may consider several factors to decide whether relocation is best for the child. These include:

  • The distance the child and separated parent would be from one another.
  • The reason for the relocation.
  • The strength of the relationship between the child and each parent.
  • The preferences of the child.

If one parent opposes a move on the grounds that it will undermine his or her relationship with the child, the other parent may suggest options such as virtual visitation. According to the Washington Times, technology such as email, texting and Skyping can help a separated parent and child maintain a close relationship. Although California does not have laws protecting a parent's virtual visitation rights, virtual visitation is generally recognized as an option that can be included in parenting plans.

Planning for an upcoming relocation

Whether a divorce is pending or complete, parents who plan on relocating can benefit from speaking with an attorney. An attorney can provide advice on creating a parenting plan that leaves room for relocation. An attorney can also warn a parent about potential legal issues that moving could introduce.

As an example, many people heard earlier this year about the custody battle between Olympic athlete Bode Miller and his pregnant ex-girlfriend. The couple broke up when the woman was still pregnant, and she moved from California to New York to pursue her education, according to ABC News. When the child was born, the woman applied for custody in New York, and Miller filed for custody in California.

Miller argued that the woman left California before a custody arrangement was determined in the hopes of winning more favorable orders from a New York Court. Initially, a New York judge agreed that custody should be decided in California and called the move "irresponsible." An appeals court later decided that the woman had the right to relocate, so the case would be heard in New York. Still, the fact that this issue came up between two unmarried parents shows that relocating can be complicated whenever children are involved.

Anyone anticipating a move after a separation should consult with an attorney about proving that the relocation is best for the child and creating an optimal parenting plan.