It is increasingly common for parents to relocate in today’s mobile society. Some do so because of military deployment orders. Others move to pursue professional opportunities. Some people relocate to care for ailing family members.

Under California law, a parent who has been awarded primary custody of a child may change his or her residence, even if the parent has previously agreed not to do so. However, a move is subject to approval by the court. Essentially, a court will not allow a move if it is not in the best interests of the child.​

This is especially important when a couple shares custody of a child. Both parents’ rights must be considered, regardless of the amount of time the child spends with each parent. The court will incorporate a new analysis to determine whether the current custody arrangement should continue. It will consider a number of factors related to what is in the best interests of the child, including:

  • Each parent’s reasons for seeking (or opposing) the move
  • The quality of the child’s relationship with each parent
  • The impact of the move on the child’s future contact with the non-custodial parent
  • Whether the move would enhance the parent’s (and the child’s) quality of life, financially and emotionally
  • The children’s ages, their preferences (if old enough to express one) and how the move may affect them
  • The relative distance of the move
A party seeking to change a child’s permanent residence must file a motion with the court. Notice of the motion should be sent to the other parent at least 45 days before the proposed move to allow the non-relocating parent enough time to file any objections and to be heard by the court. The non-relocating parent can assert that the move would severely hinder his or her relationship with the child, and that the future burdens are outweighed by any potential benefits proposed through the move.
Parental relocation cases invariably involve situations where both parents mean well and have great relationships with their children. However, if the move puts considerable strains on the children, a court may be inclined to deny the move. Because move-away cases are considerably fact-intensive, it is critical to have a family law attorney consider all the aspects that could be used in the court’s decision.