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Relocation and child custody modifications in California

When a parent in California decides to relocate, the court could modify the child custody order depending on how far they are moving. Usually, the move would need to create some sort of disruption in the existing parenting plan for the court to consider it. If you are planning to relocate, here’s what you need to know.

Child custody determinations

When parents are divorcing or separating, they must decide where their child will stay, the non-custodial parent’s visitation rights, how to make important decisions for the child, etc. Child custody orders also take into account the unique needs of each parent, which in turn makes it easier for them to perform their duties. California family courts oversee these agreements, making them legally binding.

Relocation and custody modification

It’s not typical for a judge to modify child custody just because one parent decides to relocate. What’s relevant in this decision is not how far a parent is moving, but rather the move’s disruption to the non-custodial parent’s visitation rights and whether that will negatively affect the child. Therefore, even if the move is only, for example, 30 miles or so from the current location, the court can consider it a move-away if it affects the custody agreement.

Here are some of the factors that courts may consider regarding a relocation request:

  • Changes to the child’s educational, emotional and physical needs as a result of the move
  • The reasons why the parent is moving
  • How the relocation may negatively impact the relationship of the child and the other parent
  • The impact of the move on the communication between the parents
  • Any detrimental consequences on the child’s life as a result of the move
  • The stability and continuity of meeting the child’s needs
  • The distance between the proposed location and the current residence of the child
  • The effect on the relationship between the child and his or her extended family as a result of the move

The court may deny a relocation-related custody modification request if it’s contrary to the child’s best interests or significantly impacts the rights of the other parent.

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