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Can I relocate with my child after the custody order is final?

After divorce and child custody arrangements have been finalized, the custodial parent may want to move somewhere else with the child. However, before a parent is able to legally relocate with a child, there are certain procedures that must be followed to ensure that the move is within the best interest of the child.

What is relocation?

Pennsylvania law considers relocation to be any alteration in the child's living arrangements that may prevent the other custodial party from fully exercising his or her custodial rights. Although distance may factor significantly into whether a move is considered relocation, it is not the only determining aspect.

Only a custodial parent is able to submit a request to relocate with the child. The relocation can only occur under one of two conditions:

  • The other parties with custodial rights must give permission
  • The family court must grant approval

Relocation procedure

According to Pennsylvania law, the parent petitioning to relocate with the child is required to provide prior written notification to the other custodial parent or any other individual who has custodial rights. The notice should be mailed certified with a return receipt request at least 60 days before the date of relocation. Some of the pertinent information that should be in the notification includes:

  • An explanation of why it is necessary to relocate
  • An exact date of the relocation
  • Identification information about the people who will be residing at the new residence
  • New address and telephone number of the new home

If the custodial parent fails to send a notice in the manner that is required, he or she is considered to be in non-compliance, which can result in the custody of the child being returned to the other parent, a contempt of court charge or having to pay legal expenses of the party objecting to the relocation.

How does the court decide?

If there is an objection filed by the other parent against the relocation, a hearing will take place to provide an opportunity for both sides to be heard. Any decision the court makes will be ultimately guided by what will contribute to the child's emotional, mental and physical well-being. This can entail the consideration of factors such as:

  • Whether the child's current relationships can be maintained despite the changes the relocation will bring
  • The quality of the child's relationship with the party requesting the relocation, the party opposing the relocation and any other individual with whom the child has an attachment
  • The child's own opinions regarding the relocation, depending on the maturity and age of the child
  • Any other issues that may affect the safety of the child

The court considers all of these factors, and others, when determining whether the requested relocation is in the best interests of the child. If you are a parent seeking to relocate to another state with your child or have questions about whether your ex-spouse can move with your child, contact an experienced family law attorney at Rowe Law Offices, P.C. Relocation involves specific notice requirements for both parties that cannot be overlooked. An attorney can help explain the process, help you meet any deadlines and make sure your child's best interests are being met.

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