What Steps Do I Need to Take If I Want to Move or Relocate With My Child?

If you have a child or children that are subject to a child custody order in Pennsylvania and are considering moving or relocating, you need to be aware of a child custody law that went into effect in January 2011, which requires that you obtain court approval for your move. The law provides for a mandatory notice that must be provided to the other parent and the factors that the court must consider in deciding whether to approve the move or relocation.

1. Notice

Under the new law, the party seeking to move or relocate must provide notice to every person who has custody rights to the child by certified mail, return receipt requested. This notice must be given no later than 60 days before the date of the proposed move or the 10th day after the day the party knows of the move, as long as the party did 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, such as the new address and phone number, name of the new school district and school, reasons for the proposed relocation, a proposal for a revised custody schedule, and a counter-affidavit which includes 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 part fails to notify the non-moving parent with proper notice, the court may draw a negative inference from this failure.

2. Factors for Consideration

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 prevention of the move. The court may also consider the following factors during a relocation hearing (among others):

  • 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.

Thus, if you are considering a move during the pendency of your child custody action or your former partner is considering relocation, the new custody law provides the requirements and framework that must be followed. The divorce attorneys at Cooley & Handy can help you navigate through this process.