Considering the number of marriages that end in divorce, child custody is a very real concern for many Pennsylvania parents. Ideally, a divorced couple with children will develop a mutually agreeable custody arrangement with the best interests of their children in mind and co-parent effectively. However, if one parent decides to relocate to another state or more than just a few miles away, co-parenting can be very challenging. It may even feel like the relocating parent is threatening the non-moving parent’s relationship with his or her children.
If You Plan to Relocate After Divorce
A parent may decide to move a significant distance away for several reasons, such as a better job, proximity to other family members, or better schools for their kids. It is crucial for a parent who intends to relocate to give the other parent a reasonable amount of notice. All parents should remember that Pennsylvania courts have a legal duty to rule in favor of the best interests of the children involved in a custody arrangement, and announcing the news of a move without proper notice can be detrimental to everyone involved.
In Pennsylvania, no custodial parent may relocate without the consent of every other party with custodial rights and the approval of a judge. The parent who intends to move must provide notice within 60 days of the intended move date, or within ten days of finding out about the need to relocate. For example, if a custodial parent receives a job offer and must move in only a few weeks to accept the position, then that parent must provide notice within ten days of finding out about the need to relocate.
The notice of relocation should state:
- The new address and phone number for the moving parent’s new residence. He or she must also provide a mailing address if different from the physical address.
- Names and ages of everyone who will reside at the new residence.
- The child’s new school district and school, as well as contact information for the school.
- The moving parent’s reason for relocation.
- The proposed date of the move.
- A proposal for a new custody or visitation schedule.
- Any other pertinent information concerning the relocation.
If the non-moving parent does not respond to the notice of relocation within 30 days, he or she may essentially waive his or her right to contest the move.
How Does the Court Approve Relocation?
Pennsylvania courts have a duty to rule in favor of the best interests of the children involved in any custody dispute. This includes relocation, so the judge reviewing the request to relocate will carefully scrutinize the moving parent’s motivations and whether the move will negatively impact the child’s quality of life, education, or relationship with the non-moving parent.
The custodial parent who proposes the relocation has the burden of proving that the move either will be better for the children involved or will not negatively impact the children in any way. The judge will not deny relocation simply because the non-custodial parent’s visitation or custody rights will change.
Settling Relocation Disputes
When a custodial parent decides to relocate, the news can come as a shock to the non-custodial parent and can easily stir up tensions and bitterness between the parents. A non-custodial parent may need to accept the fact that the proposed relocation will be better for his or her children regardless of his or her personal feelings or any lingering bad blood between the divorced parents.
If you are a custodial parent and intend to relocate in the near future, it is a good idea to connect with a reliable family law attorney to help you draft a comprehensive relocation proposal and new custody arrangement with the other parent.