After custody has settled, one parent may wish to move somewhere a bit further from the other party for any number of reasons. Regardless of the reasoning for relocation, in Pennsylvania, there are some laws that hold specific governance over where and how far parents can relocate. These laws come into play usually when determining custody, and can also affect both parents after custody is determined.
One of the most basic rules of relocation is that a parent must have some form of custody to relocate with the child. If one of the parents does not have custody, they will not be able to petition the court for relocation with that child. That being said, it is extremely rare that the court will provide just one parent with sole custody. Most cases involving relocation will involve one parent with either primary or shared custody seeking to relocate.
A simple move down the street does not count as a full "relocation." Because every custody situation is different, there is no set distance that determines a "relocation," however, in general, a parent cannot relocate with the child to somewhere very far away, or to a different state while sharing custody. If a parent wishes to do either of these things, the court must be petitioned first. Parents wishing to relocate can file a Notice of Proposed Relocation with the court.
Notice Of Proposed Relocation
A Notice of Proposed Relocation is basically a court filing that notifies both the court and the other parent of an intent to relocate. In general it must be filed 60 days prior to any proposed relocation, however, it is advisable to put relocation plans on hold until the relocation has been approved, as the consequences of non-compliance can be dire, and drastically affect a person's custody agreement.
The Notice of Proposed Relocation itself must contain:
- The new address, including mailing address
- The names and ages of other residents living at the new address
- The date of intended relocation
- Contact information for the parent at the new residence
- The school district information for the new residence
- Proposals for custody modification
- The relocating parent's reasoning behind the relocation, and any other appropriate information
In addition to this, the proposal should also include a warning to the other custodial parent that if an objection to the relocation is not made within 30 days of the notice, they will no longer be able to object to the relocation. Also included in the filing should be the paperwork for the other party to object.
If the filing is not completed, the consequences can range anywhere from modification of custody to contempt of court, which may result in jail time. It is always recommended to consider filing for relocation prior to moving, however, if the filing is not done and a party relocates, the relocating party can still argue that their move did not constitute a significant relocation at a hearing.
When a relocation filing is contested by the other parent, the court may call for a relocation hearing or a conference, depending on the county's procedures. If the case makes it to the courtroom a judge will decide whether or not the relocation can take place based upon the following factors:
- Relationships between the relocating parent, and the non-relocating parent
- Age of the child
- Emotional, educational, and physical needs of the child
- Any attempts of one parent to interfere with the established custody of the other
- The quality of life for the child after the relocation
- Each parent's motivations behind their respective relocation and objection
- The preference of the child, depending on age and maturity
- Any past examples of abuse or unfitness for parenthood
- The feasibility of preserving a relationship between child and parent after relocation
Much like any custody case, the standard used to make a decision will be what the judge deems to be in the best interest of the child. Hearings will be evidentiary in nature, with heavy consideration being done by the judge after all has been presented.
Relocation can be a difficult issue for both parents, and the law can complicate the situation even further. When considering a relocation, you may want to consult a lawyer for proper filing, and how your child will be affected. If you or a loved one is engaged in matters of Family Law, contact Pennsylvania attorney Joseph D. Lento today.