One of the most difficult hurdles during a divorce proceeding every parent will have to deal with is the one pertaining to their children. Unfortunately, while both parents usually agree the well-being and safety is of utmost importance, oftentimes, they disagree on what is required to keep their children safe.
In some cases, one parent may be faced with the decision to relocate, often out of state, for job needs, to be closer to immediate family, or for other reasons. However, before you make that decision on your own, it is important to understand your rights, as well as your obligations under California’s laws.
Relocating a Child During Divorce Proceedings
If you have been awarded sole legal custody during a divorce proceeding, you can move with your child to any location deemed safe for the child. However, keeping in mind that the other parent may opt to request the court to intervene, particularly if the custody order under which you have custody is a temporary one.
In this case, you should seek guidance from a qualified family lawyer who can help you determine whether your order is temporary or permanent. This could save you legal problems because while you have the right to move out of state, the other parent could dispute that right.
Divorce Petitions and Relocation of Children
Some parents want to move out of state immediately after being served a divorce petition. This is a bad idea – Chances are, your petition also included a restraining order. These orders are called “automatic temporary restraining orders” and they are in immediate effect and prohibit the removal of a child from the state without written consent from the other parent.
If you have physical custody of your child, and the child’s other parent has visitation rights and you have a concern they may consider moving the child to another state, you should speak with your attorney immediately.
Understanding Divorce and Custody in California
The first thing you should do is make sure you have an attorney who understands family law. This is important because you want someone who is going to serve as an advocate for you, and for your children.
Child custody in California can be complicated, and orders awarding custody are subject to modification. However, the basics of custody are:
- Physical custody – this means the child is assigned to live with one parent full time while the other parent typically has visitation rights. Depending on various factors, visitation may be supervised or unsupervised.
- Sole legal custody – this means one parent makes important decisions for the child. This includes where the child will attend school, makes decisions about religious upbringing and other decisions in the best interest of the child.
- Joint legal custody – this form of custody allows both parents to have an equal say in important decisions pertaining to the child’s upbringing.
- Joint physical custody – this can be more complicated than it sounds. Joint custody in effect means the child splits their time between both parents. There are some who believe this form of custody has a detrimental effect on the child, but nonetheless, this is often an agreement reached between parents or assigned by a court.
The Court and Relocation Considerations
In general, a parent who has sole legal custody of a child has the right to move that child to any location they prefer without consulting with the court or the other parent. However, this does not stop the other parent from requesting a relocation hearing because they do not feel the relocation is in the child’s best interest. Some issues the court will take into consideration during these types of hearings include:
- How far away you intend to move with the child
- Whether there is potential harm for the child if you were to move
- What the relationship is between the child and each parent
- What the child’s specific needs are including educational and emotional needs
- The ability to maintain family relationships after relocation
- Why the parent is opting for the move (personal relationship, job opportunity, family)
- The child’s overall safety and stability after the move
Understanding Custody Agreements
Parents who are considering relocation must have a firm understanding of final custody agreements before making such a move. Even where a parent has sole custody, and therefore the legal right to relocate the child, the court may ask the reasons for the relocation. In some cases, if the court feels the relocation is not in the best interest of the child, they may prevent such a relocation from occurring.
Custody, Visitation and Traveling Out of State
Parents who share custody, or have visitation agreements also need to understand that either parent who has physical custody of a child at any time is free to cross state lines with the child and go anywhere they choose. The only limitations to this is if a parent has expressed concern about the safety of their child and the court deems that out of state travel would be detrimental to the child. If you believe your child could potentially be in danger traveling out of state, you may be able to seek a modification of your existing agreements pertaining to visitations. Seek guidance from your attorney regarding this issue as soon as you believe it may be a problem.
Contact A Certified Specialist in Family Law
Family law is a very specific type of legal practice and it is important for you to work with someone who has experience when it comes to issues that pertain to your children, their safety, and their well-being. At the Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop, Attorney at Law, A California Corporation you will find a certified specialist in family law who has experience handling numerous cases pertaining to child custody issues. We understand your concerns and are familiar with California custody laws and can help you understand your legal rights and help you fight to keep your child in the state if you are concerned their other parent is going to move them impacting your relationship with your child. Contact us today at 619-299-9780 and schedule a free consultation and let us help you with your relocation issues and concerns.