What’s involved in relocating with a child after a divorce?

Child custody is typically one of the hardest-fought aspects of a divorce. Even after one parent becomes the primary caregiver, the other often retains his or her custodial rights.

What happens when the primary caregiver wants or needs to move? What happens if that move significantly affects the ex-spouse’s ability to co-parent? Which parent’s rights take precedence over the other? It’s a tricky situation that doesn’t have an easy answer. Each case is unique and requires a unique resolution.

The process

Pennsylvania law says a move can’t be made until everyone who has custody rights agrees to the move or a judge approves the relocation.

If you want to make a move and you are the primary caregiver, you have to send notice to your ex-spouse no later than 60 days before the date you move. There is a special stipulation that lets you send notice 10 days after you know of the move, but only if you couldn’t have known about the relocation prior to 60 days before the move and you cannot possibly delay the move.

When you send notice (via certified mail with return receipt requested) of the move, you must include:

  • Address of the new residence
  • Names and ages of the people who will live at that address
  • Telephone number at the new address
  • Names of the new school district and school
  • Date and reason for the move
  • A proposal for revised custody schedule
  • A counter-affidavit for your ex-spouse to object to the move along with notice that if the ex-spouse doesn’t file an objection with the court within 30 days, they can no longer object to the move

What happens if an ex-spouse objects?

If your ex-spouse files an affidavit objecting to the move within the 30-day window, a judge will hear your case to decide if you can relocate.

The judge will consider issues such as the age of the child, the child’s relationship not only with parents but with siblings, the emotional and educational needs of the child, the financial condition of the parents, whether the move will enhance the child’s quality of life, and any abuse by one of the parents or a member of the parent’s household.

The wishes of the child will be considered depending on the child’s age and maturity.

If the judge approves the relocation, the court will modify the existing custody order.

It’s obviously a tricky situation and one that should not be entered in cavalierly. Consult a qualified attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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