In Pennsylvania, parents who have gone through a family law case and the child custody and parenting time agreements have been settled might think they can move forward without needing to worry about other challenges arising. However, changes in life are inevitable and there might be a request on the part of the custodial parent to relocate with the child. This can be worrisome for the noncustodial parent.
Even in cases where the parents are on reasonably good terms, this can spark dispute. When a parent wants to relocate, the court will look at 10 factors and weigh them before approving or rejecting a move or relocation that “significantly impacts” the noncustodial parent’s custody and or custodial rights. It is important to understand the law in these potentially problematic circumstances.
How does the court decide whether to allow a relocation?
The court will always look first at the best interests of the child. There are 16 factors that the court must consider in determining what is in the best interests of a child. The parent who wants to relocate must present the court with a proposal to relocate, which must be done formally by way of what is known as a Notice of Relocation. Then the court will go down its list. The relationship between the child and the parents is key. This is true for the custodial, relocating parent and the noncustodial parent whose parenting time will likely be impacted by the move. There might also be siblings and that relationship could be changed with a relocation. Also important is the child’s age, where he or she is in terms of development and how his or her needs will be met. For development, the court assesses the education, physical growth and emotional changes.
The relationship between the child and the parent who is not relocating will undoubtedly need to adapt if the move is approved. The court will try to gauge how reasonable it is that the non-relocating parent will maintain the same level of contact or if there are parenting time changes that must be made. The feasibility is a fundamental consideration.
A child will not be ignored if he or she wants to state a preference. Of course, the age and maturity level will be a large part of how influential the child’s statement is. The parents’ relationship must be part of the process. If, for example, it was a couple that could communicate and were even friends after the divorce, then the court might take that as a positive that they can navigate the new terrain. If there was constant discord, then it could be a challenge. The parent will be moving for a reason. That could be to be closer to family members, for a new job or to attend school. If there is an extreme issue like fear of abuse from the other parent, then this will naturally be a critical part of the determination of the relocation being awarded or not.
From either perspective, being aware of the law with a relocation is key
Family law cases can be contentious and that is especially true when children are involved. With a child custody, parenting time and relocation, it is wise to know how the court will look at the case and make its determination. There are variables with the law and every case is different. If the sides can come to an amicable resolution or if there is a continuing objection to the attempt to relocate, having guidance is imperative. This should be the first step whether it is a parent asking the court to allow the relocation or a parent who is concerned or outright objects to it.