Relocation Cases Part 6:
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 move-away case.
What factors does the court consider?
Once the court has considered all of the preliminary factors of what the parenting plan is, whether there is a presumptive right to move, and whether or not the proposed move is being made in good faith, the final factor the court has to consider is: what is in the best interests of the children?
Generally, the answer is that the court will look at anything that is relevant. Every case is different, the specific facts are different, and as such the court is given wide discretion as to what is to be considered and how much weight should be given to any one factor in the final determination.
However, when dealing with move-aways, the court has been given some guidelines to consider from the case of La Musga:
- The Child’s Interest in Stability and Continuity of the Custodial Arrangement
- The Distance of the Move
- The Age of the Child
- The Child’s Relationship with Both Parents
- The Parent’s Relationship and Willingness to Make the Children’s Interests Paramount
- Wishes of the Child – Assuming adequate maturity level
- Reasons for the Proposed Move
- The Extent to Which the Parents Currently Share Custody
Once the court has gotten to the best interests analysis, all factors relevant to the children’s lives should be presented. With relocation, the court has to assume that the proposed move will take place. Thus, when there are significant distances involved the court will have to make a decision as to which parent should be the primary parent for the children through most of the year. Grades, parental involvement, emotional or medical issues for the children or the parents, substance abuse, and a history of domestic violence would all be relevant.
It can become quite difficult for a court to make such a momentous decision when there are two appropriate parents without significant issues impacting their ability to parent such as substance abuse or domestic violence. Thus, the decision often comes down to the parent’s respective ability to co-parent and maintain the relationship between the children and the other parent.
In every case where the children’s best interests are to be calculated, I have found it to be incredibly important for my clients to be seen as the most reasonable, respectful person in the relationship. It can be difficult, but particularly in cases where the result could be the loss of significant contact between the children and my client, keeping a proper perspective, supporting the relationship with the other parent, and exhibiting the ability to be reasonable and flexible can make all the difference.
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