Child Custody Move-Away: What You Need to Know

Jul 19, 2021

If you’re involved (or about to become involved) in a child custody move-away case, you may want to work with a Certified Family Law Specialist who can help you. That’s because these types of cases can be incredibly complicated, and you want to work with an attorney who can best represent you and your children’s best interests. California’s laws on moving away with children continue to evolve, so for most people, working with a lawyer is the best way to stay on top of new developments.

In the state of California, judges often allow parents to move away with their children – but that can leave behind a parent who wants to (and even needs to) see and spend time with his or her kids. And the courts won’t rule on whether a parent can move – judges can only rule on whether the children can move with the parent. 

Here’s what else you need to know about child custody move-away cases.

What is a Child Custody Move-Away Case?

A child custody move-away case is a case in which one parent – who has either full custody of the kids or shares joint custody of the kids – wishes to move away with the children, and that move would interfere with the other parent’s time with the children. In many cases, the parents don’t agree that the move will be in the children’s best interests. Sometimes that’s because the parent who wishes to move wants a better opportunity, while the other parent just sees the move as a threat to his or her parenthood – and sometimes the kids’ best interests fall by the wayside in disputes like this. 

Unless both parents agree to the move, the parent who wants to move away will have to get the court’s permission first. And in every case, the court will consider the children’s best interests rather than what’s best for the parents. Child custody move-away litigation can be difficult to navigate on your own, which is why many people turn to attorneys for help.

Can a Parent With Joint Custody Move Away With the Children? 

If you share joint custody with your kids’ other parent, you both must agree to the move. Otherwise, you’ll have to get permission from the judge in your case. 

What Judges Look at in Child Custody Move-Away Cases

First and foremost, judges consider the best interests of the child in every child custody move-away case. The courts will look at:

  • Why the parent wants to move
  • How the move will affect the child’s stability and continuity within the current custodial arrangement
  • How far the parent wants to move
  • The child’s age
  • The child’s relationship with both parents
  • Each parent’s relationship with the other, including how well they can communicate and whether they’re willing to put the child’s interests above their own
  • What the child wants, if he or she is mature enough
  • The existing custody agreement, including both what’s on paper and what you’ve been practicing
  • Which parent is more likely to encourage “frequent and continuing contact” with the other parent
  • The ties the child has to the community, family members and friends
  • The child’s health and educational needs

What if You Want to Move Before You Have a Custody Agreement?

If you don’t have a custody order in place yet, or if the custody order you do have is temporary, the court will look at what’s best for the child. 

Child Custody Move-Away FAQ

Some of the most common questions people ask attorneys about child custody move-away cases include:

  1. What if only one parent has physical custody?
  2. How many miles away is a custodial parent allowed to move?
  3. What happens after a custodial parent moves away?
  4. Can you move out of state if you have full custody?
  5. How long does it take to get a child custody move-away order?

Here’s a closer look at each. 

#1. What if only one parent has physical custody?

If the parent who wants to move away has sole physical custody of the child and the other parent has only visitation, it might be easier for him or her to get permission for the move. However, the non-custodial parent might be able to prevent the move if he or she can show the judge that:

  • The custodial parent is moving to try to reduce the non-custodial parent’s time with the kids, or that he or she is otherwise planning the move in bad faith.
  • The move is not in the child’s best interest.

Many parents choose to work with a Certified Family Law Specialist in cases like these – particularly if there’s likely to be a fight in store.

#2. How many miles away is a custodial parent allowed to move?

Your child custody agreement might already say how many miles away a custodial parent is allowed to move – but if it doesn’t include that information, here’s a rule of thumb: If the move is far enough away to disrupt your current custodial arrangement, you’re going to need a new custody order from the court. 

#3. What happens after a custodial parent moves away?

When a custodial parent moves away, the last custody order the judge put into effect stays in effect. If the move is simply across town and the parents can maintain the parenting time arrangement they originally agreed upon, the courts don’t need to step in. However, if the move interferes with the last court order the judge put into effect, either parent may need to go to court and ask the judge for a modification. In many child custody move-away cases, one parent finds that the move has interfered with his or her rights to time with the children – and these parents often turn to family law attorneys for help.

#4. Can you move out of state if you have full custody?

Having full legal and physical custody of your children is not a guarantee that you can move with them. You may need to talk to an attorney to see what steps you have to take – and in many cases, you still need the court’s permission to move out of state.

#5. How long does it take to get a child custody move-away order?

California law requires a parent to provide written notice of his or her plan to move away with the child for more than 30 days. The notice is supposed to be sent at least 45 days before the proposed move, which should be enough time to allow the parents to work out a new agreement – or to allow the non-moving parent to file an objection to the move. 

Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About a Child Custody Move-Away Case?

If you’re considering moving, or if your children’s other parent is moving away and you think he or she shouldn’t, we may be able to help you. Call us at 310-820-3500 to schedule your free consultation today – we’ll be happy to answer your questions and help you do what’s best for your children.