More and more often, parents have joint custody of their children after they divorce. Joint custody is a great way to provide your children with all their needs while giving them access to both parents. While it was not always common in the past, many parents are finding that joint custody is the best option for their family.
However, situations change, and a time may come when a parent wants or needs to relocate. Whether the relocation is to take a new job opportunity, to be closer to family, or for any other reason, the decision to move can be difficult. One of the main concerns is what happens when you move if you have joint custody of your children. Generally, you may be able to relocate as long as it will not interfere with custody and if the other parent has been given notice.
Understanding Joint Custody
Joint custody is called a shared residential schedule. This means that both parents share physical custody of their child in a manner that is equal. The child will spend half their time with one parent and half with the other parent. This arrangement works best when both parents live near each other. That way, the child can alternate between parents’ homes while they still maintain the same school, friends, and activities. Joint custody is becoming more popular as parents each want to have plenty of time with their kids. Joint custody may eliminate the need for child support because both parents are providing equally for the child’s needs.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is a document that details child custody arrangements as part of a divorce order. The parenting plan is necessary so that both parents have a complete understanding of their roles and responsibilities. If you and the other parent have a parenting plan in place, you must follow it. The document will outline how parents share their parenting responsibilities and may also address how to make changes in the future. The parenting plan must provide for what to do if one parent wants to move.
Child Relocation Act
Washington State has several laws in place that together are called the Child Relocation Act (CRA). These laws apply to parents who have joint custody with a parenting plan in place. RCW 26.09.405 through RCW 26.09.560 are statutes that pertain to the relocation of a child when there is a joint custody agreement in place. It states, in brief, that the court has the right to make the determination to allow relocation of a child. The relocation request must include detailed information, including the new proposed address and phone number (or the city and state), the name and address of the school the child would attend, and the date of the proposed relocation. Additionally, the parent must include a proposed revised parenting plan, including a schedule of residential time and visitation. The law requires that you serve the other parent with this notification no less than 60 days prior to the date of the proposed move.
How Soon Can I Relocate?
You must allow enough time for the other parent to respond to your location. Once you notify the parent, you must generally wait at least 60 days. You are required to provide notice to anyone with existing visitation rights, including a parent with shared time. If you can show that the other parent does not object to the relocation, you may be able to move within 30 days without a court order. If the other parent does not object within 30 days of receiving notice, you may be allowed to move. Otherwise, you will need to wait 60 days or until the judge makes a final determination if there is an objection.
Parenting Plan Modification
The parent who wants to move must inform the other parent to allow time for the parent to respond. The parenting plan must be changed through the court system. The judge will review the proposed changes in custody and visitation as well as listen to both parents. Parents can review and discuss the modification and come to an agreement. If they cannot agree, the judge will delve into the matter before approving or denying the proposed modification. It is essential to get a modification through the court to make sure that you are always in compliance with the law.
What Happens if the Other Parent Objects?
The relocation of one parent will bring about a major change in the family dynamic. The other parent may object to the relocation. When that happens, the parent may not agree with a parenting plan modification. The parent has 30 days to respond to a notice of the intent to relocate. If a parent objects to the request for the other parent to move, the matter will need to be handled in family court.
At a family court hearing, both parents will be allowed to present their side to the judge. The judge will evaluate the information presented by both sides to make a determination. It is important to note that the judge will always make a decision based on what is in the best interest of the child. The judge cannot forbid a parent to move, but they can determine how the child’s custody and visitation will work. An experienced family law attorney will help guide you through the process.
What Factors Does the Judge Consider in a Relocation Request?
The judge will consider a variety of factors in a relocation request case. Some of the things that the judge will review and evaluate include:
The reason for the relocation
The relationship of the child with each parent
Objections to the relocation
The age, health, and needs of the child
How the relocation will impact agreements in place
Quality of life after relocation
Whether there are any other options rather than relocation
The financial impact of the relocation
The judge has a duty to do what is in the best interest of the child. Therefore, the judge will closely evaluate each case and make a decision based on the unique circumstances. Both parents will present their case to the judge.
Sometimes, there is a need for a parent with joint custody to relocate. When that happens, make sure that you begin the court process as soon as possible. Whether you are seeking relocation or you are a parent objecting to it, you can benefit from the guidance of an experienced family law attorney. Contact us at View Ridge Family Law & Estate Planning to discuss your needs at (206) 210-1562 today.