Child Custody 101: Ex Moving Out of State

If your ex is threatening to move out of state with your child, you may wonder what your rights are under California child custody laws. Can your former spouse take your child and move out of state without your permission? If you're the custodial parent, can you relocate without the other parent being involved? Here's what you need to know if your child's other parent is planning to move out of state and take your child with him or her.

Relocation Can Only Occur Under Certain Circumstances

Relocation out of state can only occur if:
  • All individuals who have custody rights to the child consent to the proposed relocation - OR -
  • A court approves the proposed location

What this means for you is that if your ex or an individual with whom you share legal custody rights can't take the child and move out of state without your permission unless the court approves it. If the custodial parent moves the child out of state without court approval and/or your permission, he or she is in violation of the custody agreement and may be subject to legal action.

Legal Process to Gain Permission to Move Out of State

When a custodial parent wants to relocate with the child, the former spouses or co-parents should meet outside the courtroom to make a legal agreement that modifies the custody terms. The new agreement should include things like:
  • The amount of parenting time each party will have
  • How much phone and/or email contact you'll have with your child
  • Travel arrangements for custodial visitation
  • Who's paying for travel for the purposes of custodial visitation

Even if the custodial parent is moving out of state, you still have the right to visit with your child. Travel for visitation may include provisions like: the child will travel to stay with you on school vacations, for certain holidays, or for periods of time over the summer. School complicates custodial visitation for out-of-state family; it isn't as simple as weekend visitation, but both parents should work together to create a mutually satisfactory visitation schedule.

Once you've created a legal agreement to modify the custody terms, you'll need to get it approved by a judge in order to become a legal part of the custody agreement. If you and your co-parent can't agree on a visitation schedule, or you won't agree to let your co-parent move out of state with your child, he or she will need to go to court to get permission to move without your approval.

Moving the Child Out of State Without Your Approval

In order to get a court order to allow the move, the relocating parent must bear the burden of proof to show that the move would improve both the parent's and the child's quality of life and that the move isn't being done to prevent the child and the non-moving parent from having contact.

Things that might constitute an improvement in quality of life include a

  • New, better-paying job
  • Better living conditions
  • Better schools
  • Other improvements.

Both parents must establish the integrity of their respective motives. If the court believes that one parent is threatening to move to “punish” the other parent, or that the parent left behind is objecting purely to cause problems for the custodial parent, or that either parent is acting without the child's interests in mind, the judge will not be favorable to the party who isn't acting with good intentions.

In order for the custodial parent to gain permission to move the child out of state, he or she must demonstrate the availability of realistic substitute visitation arrangements between the child and the non-custodial parent left behind. If visitation would be unrealistic or cost-prohibitive, the judge may decide not to grant the custodial parent permission to move out of state.

Get Help With Your Case Today

Ultimately, a move out of state is easiest to accomplish when both parents can reach an agreement. However, it's possible for one parent to move the child out of state without permission, as long as he or she can get the court to agree. It's vital to work with a good family law attorney if your ex is threatening to take the child out of state in order to protect your parental rights.
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