Kevin Qualls Family Law
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Joint custody and parental relocation

The end of a marriage is a good time for people to reassess what they want out of life and start over. Sometimes starting over requires moving somewhere new. When parents divorce however, their freedom to move to new places may be limited by the demands of child custody and the laws of parental relocation, sometimes known as "move-away" laws.

Let's say you and an ex-spouse have joint custody of your child and one of you wishes to move out of California. You might not expect it to be too difficult of a proposition, but the reality is that legally, with joint custody, both you and your spouse must share all decision-making that will make an impact on a child's life, including where he or she will live. Moving out of state without an official arrangement may even be grounds for a kidnapping charge levied against you.

If you are cordial with your ex-spouse, it may be as easy as getting approval from him or her and presenting it to court. If the divorce led to animosity and you suspect the request will not go over smoothly, it is wise to let an attorney work with you.

Generally, if one parent has sole custody of the children, he or she may move with the children. However, even in these situations, the other parent typically has visitation rights to see the children. Moving the children away from that parent can seriously interfere with that parent's rights.

Whatever the situation, it is wise for parents to speak with an attorney before moving any significant distance away. A court may need to approve the move. As is the case with most decision-making among the courts with regards to child custody, the court will decide the case largely according to its determination of what lies in the best interests of the child or children. If approved, the courts will likely require a modification of the child custody and visitation arrangements. This will include all aspects of the move, including financial changes and logistical changes that need to be worked out and solidified before the move.

Source: California Courts, "'Move-Away' Situations," accessed Oct. 22, 2015

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