Making the move – what you need to know about relocation and child custody
So you were just offered an awesome new job in South Carolina but you live in Pennsylvania. Congratulations! However, if you are planning on moving there with your minor child and another parent has custody rights, the process is not as simple as packing your boxes into the U-Haul truck and hitting the highway.
Relocation in Pennsylvania is governed by the Child Custody Act, which prohibits relocation with a child unless every other person having custodial rights to the child consents to the relocation or the court approves the relocation. A relocation is considered any change in residence that significantly impairs the ability of the non-relocating parent to exercise his or her custodial rights. A relocation is not necessarily an out-of-state move – for parents with shared custody, a move to another county or school district could be considered a relocation for purposes of the Child Custody Act.
The party seeking to relocate must file a Notice of Relocation with the courts and serve it on all other parties with custodial rights before the move. The non-relocating party may file an objection to the relocation and seek a temporary or permanent order to prevent the relocation. If no timely objection to the relocation is made, then is it presumed that the non-relocating parent has consented to the relocation. However, if an objection is made, the court must hold an expedited full hearing before the relocation, unless the court finds exigent circumstances, such as prevention of abuse, are present. In such an instance, the court may approve the relocation pending the expedited full hearing. If the child is relocated prior to the expedited full hearing, the court is not allowed to confer any presumption in favor of relocation.
Failure to provide notice of the proposed move to the other custodial parent can have significant adverse consequences on the relocating parent. Failure to provide notice can be a factor in determining relocation and modifying custodial rights. It can also be a basis for ordering the return of the child to the non-relocating party. Failure to provide notice can also serve as the basis for the court to award counsel fees to the non-relocating party and to find the relocating in contempt and order sanctions.
In deciding whether one parent may relocate with the child, the Child Custody Act requires the court look at ten factors, all of which help determine whether the proposed move is in the best interests of the child. The factors for the court to consider include the impact the relocation will have on the child’s physical, educational, and emotional development, the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the non-relocating party and the child through an alternative custody arrangement, whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life of both the relocating party and the child, and both parties’ motives in seeking or opposing the relocation.
The party seeking the relocation has the burden of establishing that the relocation will serve the best interests of the child. However, each party has the burden of establishing the integrity of that party’s motives in either seeking the relocation or seeking to prevent the relocation. Contact the attorneys at McMorrow Law, LLC at 724-940-0100 if you are seeking to relocate with your child or if another parent is seeking to relocate with your child. Our experienced custody attorneys can help you get the results you deserve.