COVID-19 and Child Relocation (Move-Away)

The pandemic has resulted in a major migration for many people. In the last nine months alone, more than eight million people have uprooted and moved back in with family or to find cheaper living arrangements. Many Bay Area residents are moving with their children to Sacramento County and Placer County.  After a divorce, if you and your ex-spouse share children and split physical custody, you cannot unilaterally relocate from the general area with your children unless you reach an agreement with the other parent or you seek express written consent from the court. Even still, Requests for Orders that strongly interfere with the other parent’s ability to visit or maintain shared custody have little judicial appeal and are rarely approved. If you have questions about a major life change, such as a move, contact the attorneys at Hughes Law Group.

Shared Physical Custody

In California, divorced couples with minor children are required to solve disputes over child custody, visitation, and child support prior to a final judgment.  By far, the more popular arrangement is shared physical custody. However, for shared custody to be actually feasible, including pick up/drop offs from school and extracurricular activities, both parties need to live within proximity of each other. Jurisdiction over the divorce occurs in the county where the parties were married or reside. When one party has only visitation rights to the children, the parties should still address major issues like potential relocation. Should one party elect to relinquish custody rights to the other party, there is no automatic requirement to contact the courts about moving but contacting a family law attorney and securing a written, enforceable agreement is always highly recommended.

Circumstances Warranting Relocation Approval

Your California custody orders may require the parent intending to move to provide 30 days’ notice to the other parent prior to leaving.  There are many good faith reasons for relocating with a child such as when a parent has remarried and is joining a new family, has new business or economic prospects like a better-paying job, or needs to move back home to care for elderly parents.  In these circumstances, the courts might grant a request by finding that the move is in the best interest of the child. Courts may also approve relocation if the parent seeking to move is moving closer to grandparents or extended family that could assist with caring for the child and fostering beneficial relationships. Ultimately the your judicial officer will use his/her discretion to determine if moving is necessary and it will not negatively affect the child regarding schooling, home-life and relationships with friends and the other parent and extended family.

Because of COVID-19, California hospitals are near capacity. The entire state, including the Sacramento area, remains under a stay at home order. This virus has uprooted the family dynamic, our ability to make a living and for millions of others, eviction moratoriums are ending soon. Due to these circumstances, some parents make the difficult choice to move in with extended family, downsize, or relocate to a more affordable region. While California courts do not wish to create obstacles for parents dealing with serious issues, parents must remember to adhere to family law requirements when considering relocation.  In true joint custody situations, the burden is on the party intending to move that the child’s relocation is in the best interest of the child.

Contact Our Attorneys Today

If you are a parent without primary physical custody and are worried that moving plans will hinder your ability to see your child, contact our attorneys. Conversely, if you are a custodial parent contemplating a move, consult your written parenting orders and then contact our attorneys. Regardless of your standpoint, all decisions must be made for the best interest of the children.  Relocating with a child should be considered a major decision, one that should only be made after considering all potential options. Schedule a consultation with Hughes Law Group today to review your case.

COVID-19 and Child Custody Relocation (Move-Away)