Passionate | Experienced | Strategic

Can a parent stop a proposed relocation with the child?

On Behalf of | Oct 16, 2023 | Child Custody

After a Washington couple ends their relationship, there will inevitably be concerns about how to handle child custody and parenting time. Among the most potentially challenging issues is if the custodial parent wants to relocate with the child.

This can impact how often the noncustodial parent sees the child. It can complicate matters with picking the child up and returning them. Depending on the distance and the circumstances, the other parent might object to the move. Knowing how the law addresses this is imperative to try and find a workable solution that is acceptable to everyone involved.

What happens when a parent wants to relocate?

The custodial parent must disclose why they want to relocate. From the outset, it is presumed that the court will approve the request, but the other parent does have rights. The other parent would need to show that the move would be negative for the child and that goes beyond its potential benefit for both the child and the person who is relocating. There are specific factors that the court will consider when it decides whether to allow the move.

There will be an assessment of the child’s relationship with others who are likely to have reduced contact. That includes the noncustodial parent, siblings and others. If the parents had a previous agreement regarding the child – such as a parenting plan – then this too will be factored in when the move is proposed and decided upon.

The possibility of detrimental consequences will be weighed if contact is disrupted. It will be viewed and considered from the perspective of both the relocating parent and the objecting parent. There could be restrictions with parenting time for a variety of reasons. That too is analyzed when the decision is made.

The reasons for the decision to relocate or in objecting to it are fundamental parts of the decision. Some might need to move for a better job, to be closer to their family or to get education or training. The key is whether the move is being made in good faith.

The child’s age and maturity are of paramount importance. The court will want to know that the child’s educational, physical and emotional needs are met. For many, that includes a positive relationship with both parents that could be hindered by a move. Still, the child’s quality of life could be vastly improved by the move and the court will take this possibility into account.

Critically, the child must maintain a relationship with the other parent regardless of the distance they will live apart. The parenting plan can be adjusted to ensure this happens. Perhaps the child could spend an extended period with the noncustodial parent during school breaks. In some cases, the other parent will also be willing to relocate. The feasibility and willingness are crucial.

Understanding a proposed relocation is imperative

The needs of the child are a priority in any child custody and parenting time case. This is one of the most worrisome and complex parts of family law. The decision to relocate with the child is not a small one and both sides need to be fully aware of their rights. This will give them a basis to either alter their agreement or to object to it and stop it. In many instances, these cases can be negotiated. In others, it is necessary to go to court. No matter the situation, it is wise to be prepared to try and reach a positive resolution.