A common question for a family law attorney is relocation with children after divorce. In many situations, parents have gotten a divorce and each parent has visitation according to a parenting plan. However, what happens if one parent decides to move to another state and wants to take a child? Obviously, this will be a great concern for the parents especially the parent who is not moving.
If the parents agree, relocation isn’t usually a complicated matter. An agreement can be memorialized into a supplemental parenting plan and approved by a judge. However, the complication occurs when the parents do not agree.
Previously, this area of law was full of questions. In 2000, the Washington State legislature enacted the Parental Relocation Act to help address the many questions that come about from a relocation. This article will describe the basics of the law.
The Parental Relocation Act does have a few notice requirements. Generally, the person with whom the child resides the majority of time must notify every person entitled to residential time or visitation with the child 60 days prior to the relocation. Failure to provide the 60 days notice may result in sanctions, denial and/or the return of the child. Relocation due to military transfer will not negate the need for the 60 days notice requirement. After receiving the 60 days notice, the non-relocating parent must object within 30 days. If there is no objection within 30 days, relocation will be allowed.
Assuming proper notice and objection has been filed, the court will determine if relocation will be allowed. The legal analysis in determining whether a relocation will be allowed is focused on the best interest of the child and the relocation parent. The parent with whom the child resides the majority of the time is entitled to a rebuttable presumption that the relocation will be allowed. This presumption is rebutted if the non-relocating party shows there will be a detrimental effect that outweighs the benefit of the change. For example, the relocation will harmful to the child. The court will also look at 11 factors to make the determination. Some of these factors include:
- The child’s relation with each parent and sibling;
- Prior agreement of the parties;
- Whether disrupting the contact between the child and the person whom the child resides a majority of time would be more detrimental to the child than disrupting contact between the child and the person objecting to the relocation;
- The reasons for each person for seeking or opposing relocation and the good faith of each party in requesting or opposing;
- The quality of life, resources and opportunities available to the child and to the relocating party in the current and proposes geographic locations;
- The availability of alternative arrangements;
- Financial impact and logistics of the relocation or its prevention.
These factors show that relocation can get quite complicated. If you have any questions about relocation with children or like to discuss your situation, please contact Jeff Burleson for a consultation.