Can a Parent With Full Custody Move Away?

Jun 28, 2021

Can a parent with full custody move away? In some cases, yes. But every situation is different, and if the parent intends to take the child, it’s not as simple as packing up and hitting the road.

Here’s what you need to know.

Can a Parent With Full Custody Move Away?

Whether a parent with full custody can move away depends on a lot of factors, but the most important one is the child’s best interest. Usually, a parent who has sole physical custody can move away with the kids unless the other parent is able to show that the move will be harmful to them. If parents have joint physical custody and one parent does not want the other to move away with the kids, the parent who wants to move has to show the court that the move will be in the children’s best interest.

There are two types of custody that come into play when a parent wants to move out of the state of California (or even into another city or town within the state). You – and the court – will have to consider both legal custody and physical custody.

Legal Custody

Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make important decisions about a child’s health, welfare and education. The types of decisions a parent who has legal custody can make include:

  • Where the child will attend school
  • Whether a child will engage in religious activities, and if so, which religion the child will belong to
  • Whether a child should receive medical care (other than emergency medical care)

While many parents across California share legal custody, some don’t. Sometimes parents don’t share legal custody because they’re completely unable to make decisions together, one parent has been deemed unfit or is incapable of making decisions for the child, or it’s in the child’s best interest for one parent to have legal custody.

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to where a child lives. Like legal custody, many parents share physical custody. However, when a child lives with only one parent and visits the other, the parent with whom the child lives is the custodial parent; the parent the child visits is the noncustodial parent. Physical custody is determined based on what’s best for the child – always, in every instance.

What the Courts Will Look at When a Parent With Full Custody Moves Away

Even if your parenting time agreement says that one of you has physical custody of the children and the other is the noncustodial parent, you need to know that the court can – and probably will – look at your actual parenting schedule when making a move-away determination. That means if your ex has physical custody of your kids, but they spend a significant time at your home, that’s what the judge will most likely be looking at. 

If you and your children’s other parent can’t agree on whether one of you can move away with the kids, the judge in your case will have to decide. The judge will use specific guidelines to make a determination, including:

  • The reason for the move
  • How old your children are
  • How far away the moving parent is going
  • Your current custody arrangement (not only what it says on paper, but your real-world schedule, as well)
  • What the child wants, if he or she is mature enough to express it
  • The parents’ relationships with each other
  • The child’s relationship with each parent
  • The move-away parent’s employment history and potential to care for the child
  • Whether there’s a history of domestic violence or child abuse
  • Whether there’s documented drug or alcohol abuse 

The Distance of the Move 

The distance of the move matters, particularly when visiting the children might cause undue hardship on the noncustodial parent. The courts will consider things like travel expenses, hotel stays, and whether the child will travel or the parent will travel. 

International Moves

The courts consider additional factors when it comes to international moves. In addition to all the other factors, including what the child wants and how the parents will manage travel between households for visitation, the court will look at:

  • Cultural differences or practices in the other country that may go against the child’s basic human rights
  • Domestic and governmental conditions in the other country, such as whether there’s currently a war or civil unrest
  • Financial considerations
  • Whether the other country is a member in good standing of the Hague Convention

Can a Parent With Full Custody Move Away in “Bad Faith”?

When a parent moves away in order to undermine the relationship between the children and the other parent, that’s considered “bad faith.” That means that even if the parent who originally requests to move away has a legitimate reason, the court can still deny the request after reviewing evidence that shows that parent’s past behavior and other factors. 

The bottom line is that the children’s best interests are the most important factor in any move away case. So can a parent with full custody move away? In most cases, when the children’s best interests are being served, the court will agree with it. If the children’s other parent does not agree with the move, he or she must show the court why allowing the move would go against the children’s best interests.

Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Whether a Parent With Full Custody Can Move Away?

Whether you’re a parent who wants to move away with your children or you’re a noncustodial parent who wants to stop a move, you can benefit from working with a Beverly Hills child custody attorney. Call us at 310-820-3500 to schedule your free consultation now.