Relocation or custody relocation is the phrase used to describe a scenario where one parent wishes to move and the move will “significantly impair the ability of a non relocating party to exercise custodial rights.” Over the years, as our society became increasingly mobile, custody cases with a relocation at issue have became more prominent. One parent may want or need to relocate for a variety of reasons including career/educational opportunities, military assignment, and family support systems.
If the hassle of moving is not enough on its own, parents seeking relocation will have to gain the permission of the other parent or the court prior to any relocation. Whether you are the parent attempting to move with your children or you are the parent trying to prevent the move, there are very strict requirements that must be met on both sides under the Pennsylvania’s custody laws. Those requirements include providing written notice of the intended move within certain timelines and with certain specific information. The other party (the non-moving party) then has the opportunity to object to the relocation and/or changes in the custody schedule resulting from the move. If the parties cannot agree on the proposed move and changes to the custody schedule, the court must hold a hearing on an expedited basis to evaluate both parties’ claims and determine whether the relocation will be permitted and how the custody schedule will be changed, if at all.
During the hearing, the court must consider certain factors, including:
(1) The nature, quality, extent of involvement and duration of the child’s relationship with the party proposing to relocate and with the non-relocating party, siblings and other significant persons in the child’s life.
(2) The age, developmental stage, needs of the child and the likely impact the relocation will have on the child’s physical, educational and emotional development, taking into consideration any special needs of the child.
(3) The feasibility of preserving the relationship with the non-relocating party and the child through suitable custody arrangements, considering the logistics and financial circumstances of the parties.
(4) The child’s preference, taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child.
(5) Whether there is an established pattern of conduct of either party to promote or thwart the relationship of the child and the other party.
(6) Whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for the party seeking relocation, including, but not limited to, financial or emotional benefit or educational opportunity.
(7) Whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for the child, including, but not limited to, financial or emotional benefit or educational opportunity.
(8) The reasons and motivation of each party for seeking or opposing the relocation.
(9) The present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party’s household and whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party.
(10) Any other factor affecting the best interest of the child.
Custody relocation cases are, understandably, emotionally charged cases with serious consequences particularly if the proposed move is a large geographical distance. Before pursuing a relocation request, it is imperative that you meet with a custody attorney who can ensure you comply with Pennsylvania’s strict requirements and help you maximize your chances of successfully pursuing your position.