Relocation Cases Part 3:
Relocation cases are some of the most heavily contested and complicated child custody disputes that come into our California family law firm. In this blog series, I’m going to break down the most common client questions and how they line up with what the court needs to consider in a relocation case.
What does the court typically look at?
When you know your proposed move is going to impact your child’s current parenting plan, regardless of who has primary custody, it is important to understand what the court will consider before moving forward with litigation or proposing a settlement for a relocation. The only way you can accurately assess what is a reasonable settlement or reasonable proposal to the court is to understand what the general steps are and how the facts of your individual situation can fit within these typical considerations.
The court will first look to ensure that the reason behind the proposed move is not simply to keep the other parent from having parenting time. There has to be a good faith reason for the proposed move.
Assuming there is a good faith reason for the move, the court will then get to consider the impact of the move on the child’s relationship with the non-moving parent. The non-moving parent will have an opportunity to show that the move itself is detrimental to the child, and the moving parent will have an opportunity to show how the move is in the best interests of the child. This part of the assessment is where the court is given very wide discretion, and where it is very important to have a clear plan for why the move will be beneficial for the child and how the relationship with the non-moving parent will be able to be maintained.
A key thing to remember is that when the court considers a relocation, the court has to assume that the “moving” parent is actually going to move. Thus, when assessing detriment and best interests, the court has to consider that one of the parents will have to be the primary parent. While most evaluators and judges would prefer that neither parent relocate with the child, the court cannot order the moving parent not to move. The court can only decide, given the fact of the move, which parent should have primary custody of the child. Thus, when assessing the various individual best interest factors in your own case it is important to understand that not only are the factors of the move taken into consideration, but the entirety of the “best interests,” standard will be relevant.
Future posts in this series will cover: What is a good faith reason for a move? How can a non-moving parent show “detriment?” How can the child maintain a relationship with the non-moving parent? How can the move be shown to be in the best interests of the child?
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