How are move-away child custody situations handled in California?

Divorcing parents in California who face upcoming relocations should understand how family law courts determine custody arrangements in these cases.

After a divorce, it's not uncommon for people in Torrance to make significant life changes, such as moving. Unfortunately, relocation to a new city or state can become a complex issue when a divorcing spouse is also a parent. Frequently, parents faced with relocation may not be able to agree on a new living arrangement, leaving the issue to be decided in court. Therefore, it is important for these parents to know how move-away child custody cases are generally resolved in California.

What if parents share custody?

According to materials from the California Judicial Branch website, if both parents share physical custody, the court will only approve a move if it is clearly in the child's best interests. In these situations, the parent who intends to move away is tasked with proving that this change is the best option for the child. The standards are different, however, if parents share legal custody without sharing physical custody.

What if one parent has physical custody?

If one parent has been awarded permanent sole physical custody, there is a legal presumption that the parent has the right to relocate with the child. As a result, in these cases, the parent who has custody is not burdened with proving that the move is in the best interests of the child. Instead, to challenge the relocation, the non-custodial parent must show that the proposed move would cause the child harm.

How does the court make its decision?

According to The Huffington Post, family law judges can consider numerous factors to decide whether relocation is in a child's best interests. These include:

  • The child's age. A judge may be less likely to approve a move-away if a child is younger and still forming relationships with both parents.
  • The child's desires. A judge may take the preferences of a child into account, particularly if the child is old enough to make this type of decision.
  • The parent-child relationships. A judge may also consider whether a child is strongly attached to a parent, estranged from a parent or prone to conflict with a parent.
  • The likely outcome in the event of relocation. A judge may evaluate how well a relocating parent would promote a healthy and ongoing relationship between the child and other parent.

Finally, the reason for the move may influence the final outcome. The court may look for evidence that a parent is moving out of a desire to hurt the other parent or impede that parent's relationship with the child. If a parent appears to be requesting a move in bad faith, the court may be less likely to approve the relocation.

Crafting an effective argument

Showing that relocation or another change to an existing child custody arrangement is in the best interest of a child can be complex. Therefore, parents who intend to relocate or oppose an ex-spouse's proposed move may benefit from consulting with an attorney. An attorney may be able to help a parent present his or her case more effectively and work to identify the arrangement that best serves the child.