Child Custody Relocation in PA: What You Need To Know

The State of Pennsylvania recently amended the law affecting relocation in child custody cases. Parents in the midst of a divorce should take time to read the new custody law changes. These are particularly relevant for any parent involved in a Pennsylvania custody case or with a child subject to a Pennsylvania custody order. The law is also important for any parent contemplating relocating.

Whether the proposed relocation involves moving to a different county, state, or even country, it is important for you to know how to navigate through the newly enacted legal provisions that govern this issue. Failure to carefully follow the new procedures may adversely impact your case.

The new PA child custody statute went into effect on January 24, 2011 and only applies to new petitions filed after that date. Thus, if your child custody relocation case started before January 24, 2011, the old law will govern your case. All relocation cases filed after January 24, 2011 are subject to the new law. The provisions of the new PA custody laws regarding relocations are as follows.

1.    A New Notice Requirement for Relocation

One of the most significant changes in the new PA custody law is the notice requirement. The party intending to move or relocate must provide the other party with notice of his or her intent to move to the other party. Under the new law, the party seeking to move must provide notice to every person who has custody rights to the child by certified mail, return receipt requested.

This notice must be given at least 60 or more days before the date of the proposed move. Notice is also sufficient if given on or before the 10th day after the day the party knows of the move. However, for this notice, the party must not know and could not reasonably have known of the relocation in sufficient time to comply with the 60 days notice AND it is not reasonably possible to delay the date of relocation so as to comply with the 60 day notice.

The notice must also provide comprehensive information about the new residence. This includes the new address and phone number, and name of the new school district and school. Furthermore, notice should also include reasons for the proposed relocation and a proposal for a revised custody schedule. Additionally, a counter-affidavit is required. This affidavit must include a warning to the non-relocating party that if he or she does not file an objection with the court within 30 days after receipt of notice, that party loses his or her right to object to the move. If the relocating party fails to notify the non-moving parent with proper notice, the court may draw a negative inference from that failure.

2.    Factors Governing a Party’s Right to Relocate with the Child

If the non-relocating party objects to the move, a hearing will be held to determine if the relocation is in the best interest of your child. The burden is on the party proposing the move to show the court that relocation is in the child’s best interest. However, each party has the burden of establishing the integrity of his or her motives for relocation or for opposing the move. The court may also consider the following factors during a relocation hearing:

  • The nature, quality, extent of involvement and duration of the child’s relationships with each parent, siblings, and other significant people in the child’s life;
  • The age, development, needs of the child and the impact relocation will have on the child’s physical, educational, and emotional development;
  • The feasibility of maintaining the relationship between the child and non-moving parent;
  • The child’s preference;
  • Whether the move will enhance the quality of life for the parent and child (e.g., financial and/or educational opportunities); and
  • Any other best interest factor.

The new PA custody law provides the requirements and framework that must be followed. These are important if you are considering relocating and you are involved in a PA child custody case or your children are subject to a PA child custody order. This is also important if your former partner is considering relocation. The Bucks County divorce and custody attorneys at Cooley & Handy can help you navigate through this process.

© 5/5/11 Cooley & Handy