March 20, 2014

Relocating with Children Post-Separation

When clients finish the process of divorce after years of difficulty in marriage, the prospect of starting a new life can be exciting and nerve wracking. That new job, the opportunity for change, and really getting to know yourself are common “bright sides” to divorce. For those with kids, the feeling of full opportunity can be limited. Parents wishing to move and those in opposition should know how relocating with children works according to Pennsylvania custody laws before making a move.

PA Child Custody Laws, Basics

Child custody laws in Pennsylvania were amended in 2011 in response to a rise in shared custody arrangements. Because it is so common for a parent to suggest relocating with children, the courts have had to accommodate In 2011, child custody law in Pennsylvania was amended to manage the increasing prevalence of situations involving split custody. Relocating with children requires: a. you must have custody rights; b. parties with custody rights agree to the proposed relocation, and/or c. if the court grants approval to the request.

Relocating with Children, Process

Before making any move, contact an experienced Doylestown custody lawyer or family lawyer. Relocating with children without notifying the other parent or party with custody could result in serious repricussions. Just because you think you have “more” rights as a parent or custodian does not mean you can take them without following procedure.

An attorney will properly walk you through every step to ensure it is done legally and in the best interests of the children. Every individual with a custody right must be informed of the proposed relocation. Written notice is sent through certified mail at least sixty days ahead of the proposed relocation. There may be exceptions which an experienced attorney can explain or identify on a case by case basis.

Particulars of the notice include any and all information to inform other parties why and how the relocation is suggested or will occur. Address of the new residence, the local school districts and custody order proposal should all be included. The relocating parent must also provide information on any other household members and date of relocation as well as why the move is required or wanted such as new job, family, etc.

Objections to Relocating

Surely the wishes of the other parent to relocate can cause major upheaval for the custodial parent. It could also challenge an already strained visitation schedule for a non-custodial parent. Concerns about a new environment or new people can present issues to parents who object to a parent relocating with children. Once notified, a parent who objects to relocation may file an affidavit within thirty days. A hearing will be held to address the issue and an experienced family lawyer will be able to represent your interests in court – this can be tough to handle alone.

Decisions of the Court

PA courts rely upon custody and relocation laws to determine whether or not the relocation is allowable. Pennsylvania custody laws consider first the best interests of the child and pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.§5337. These considerations include an assessment of the relationship with the opposing parent, age/developmental needs of the child, likelihood/ease of maintaining parental bond via shared custody, enhancement to quality of life for the child and the relocating parent, and motive for relocating.

A three-pronged test came out of a Superior Court case in Gruber v. Gruber, 583 A.2d 434 (Pa. Superior Court 1990). This test places emphasis on the advantages, motive, and alternatives as described above.

As noted, contacting an experienced custody lawyer is the best way to ensure the best interests of you and your children. If you are considering relocating with children or object to relocation, contact the Law Offices of Michael Kuldiner, P.C. at (215) 942-2100 to schedule a consultation. Or complete an online inquiry form and a member of our team will contact you to set up an appointment.