How Child Custody Relocation Works in Pennsylvania
Legal counsel for parents when a parent wants to move to another state or distant location
Parents who have a legitimate reason for relocating to another state or another part of Pennsylvania need to comply with a formal relocation process. The process is designed to protect the interests of the child, the parent who wants to move, and the parent who isn’t moving. It’s not enough to have a verbal understanding with the other parent. Agreements need to be made part of a formal Pennsylvania custody order. The non-moving parent does have the right to contest the move – to the extent the moving parent wants to relocate with the child.
At Statt Law, our family lawyers are experienced custody lawyers. We help parents negotiate and mediate agreements for the physical and legal custody of the children. When you can’t reach a friendly agreement with the other parent, we’re ready to litigate the child custody issues in court. Along with the custody issues, we also help ensure that an appropriate child support order is entered for the child.
What factors are considered in deciding the terms of a relocation order?
Generally, family judges assume that the existing custody arrangement is in the best child’s best interest.
- If there isn’t a current custody order, then the parent who is moving must obtain one through the court.
- If there is a current custody order, and the parent has full or partial physical custody, then the relocating parent must file a petition to modify the current order.
- If there is a current custody order, and the parent who is moving doesn’t have full or partial physical custody, then the parent who is moving will either seek to obtain full or partial physical custody or return to the current Pennsylvania location to see his/her child
As with all custody decisions, the fundamental question is – what is in the best interests of the child (not the parents)? The family court will consider the following factors in relocation cases:
- The current relationship the child has with the parent who is not moving
- Whether there are other children and whether those children will be moving or staying
- The child’s other relationships in the community where the child lived prior to the requested move
- The child’s schooling including the schools available in the new location
- The child’s age
- How much the move will affect the child’s emotional development
- The child’s preferences – in cases where the child is an older child
- The home, family, and other quality of life factors in the new location
What are the common reasons a parent may relocate?
Parents may need to relocate to a different state or a different county for many legitimate reasons such as:
- Their employer is requiring the move
- They have an opportunity for a better job in the new location
- The moving parent has a new relationship and wants to move in or marry that person – and the new person in the parent’s life lives in the new state or new county
- A change of scenery – provided the move isn’t mean to punish the parent who isn’t moving
Your family law can explain whether a new custody order is required if a parent moves within Pennsylvania to a new county or beyond a certain mileage radius from the current location.
Some of the formal requirements to obtain a new custody order in Pennsylvania order – when one custodial parent wants to relocate
The parent who wants to move must give the parent who isn’t moving written notice of the intent to move. The notice must provide specific information about the move such as:
- The address of the new location
- Who will live in the new home
- When the move will take place
- The name of the new school and its location and school district
- Other information
The notice should make clear (by providing a counter-affidavit form) that the nonmoving parent has the right to object to the move.
The moving parent must obtain approval from the court. If there is an objection (and even if there isn’t) the judge can order that a hearing take place to consider:
- Whether the move is in the child’s best interest
- The terms of the new custody order.
Some of the specific requirements set forth in the rule include:
- The notice must be sent by certified mail, return-receipt requested, at least 60 days prior to the move date.
- If a custodial parent objects, he/she must object in a timely manner – generally 30 days from receipt of the notice to relocate
- “If no objection to a proposed change of a child’s residence is timely served after notice, the proposing party may change the residence of the child and such shall not be considered a ‘’relocation’’ under statute or rule.” [It’s generally advisable to obtain a new custody order].
- If there is an objection, the process for determining whether the relocation is permissible shall be expedited
- If the relocating party seeks a new custody order (and there is no objection), he/she must comply with certain additional requirements including submitting a proposed new order
- If the relocating parent seeks a new custody order and there is an objection, the relocating parent and non-relocating parent must comply with certain requirements – that our family law attorneys can explain
If the move is approved, there are other issues that need to be resolved. An experienced Harrisburg custody lawyer will review:
- Where the child will attend school. Children who are in high school may be allowed to stay with the non-moving parent and finish their education in the same high school.
- When the non-moving parent will have physical custody or visitation rights with the child
- How the child will be transported between the new location and the location of the non-moving spouse
- How and when the non-moving parent can communicate with the child and with all other people in the child’s life including schoolteachers
At Statt Law, our Harrisburg family lawyers help parents including divorced spouses obtain (and contest) custody relocation orders. We also negotiate new agreements that benefit your child while also preserving your rights as a parent to physical and/or legal custody of your child. To schedule an appointment with a respected Harrisburg family lawyer, call us at: (717) 537-0928 or complete our contact form.
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