According to California family law, a custodial parent has the right to relocate as long as the court determines that the move is not detrimental to the child. The statute itself does not elaborate on this, but instead leaves the determination to the discretion of the court. If the parent with primary custody of the child wishes to relocate, a judge considers the effect the relocation would have on the child and either grants or denies the request.
WHY MIGHT A PARENT NEED TO RELOCATE?
When a divorce is filed, a restraining order preventing either parent from removing child from the State of California without the other parent's permission automatically takes effect.
A parent might want to relocate for a number of sound reasons, such as a change in their employment situation or an opportunity for the child to enter a better school system. A judge has no set criteria to consider when deciding on an application for relocation, other than taking into account the best interests of the child.
When a custodial parent petitions to relocate, the other parent can allow the move or object to it. In the latter case, the judge sets a date for a hearing and makes a decision at that time to deny or allow the relocation.
At this point, a judge might reconsider the issue of custody. If the petitioning parent desires to move and the judge determines that it is in the child's best interest to move, the relocation is likely to be granted. If the judge determines that it is better for the child to stay in the county, the judge might wish to reassign custody to the parent who lives there. The petitioning parent then has the right to either stay with the child or move without the child.
A change of custody is not a simple issue and requires careful consideration by all parties involved. The judge must consider the relationship the child has with each parent and each parent's ability to care for and provide for the child.
If you are considering relocation either during or following your divorce, it is advisable to speak with a child custody attorney in the San Diego area.