Amanda concentrates her practice in all aspects of family law including divorce, adoption, child and spousal support, custody, separation and domestic abuse in the greater Doylestown, PA area. Amanda advises people during...Read More by Author
Ready to Relocate: Custody Factors to Consider Upon Separation or Divorce
When a couple chooses to separate or divorce, one party may seek a fresh start by relocating to a new residence, town, or even a new state. If the couple has a child or children, then custody can become complicated, especially if one parent desires to relocate a significant distance from the other. A far-distance move may trigger Pennsylvania’s relocation statute in your custody case.
By definition, a relocation is any move that is going to impact the ability of any party in a case to carry out their custodial responsibilities and enjoy their custodial time with the children.
For additional information on how to legally initiate the relocation process or if you are in receipt of a relocation notice from the other parent, review this article.
Once a relocation matter is before the court, there are ten relocation factors that the judge must consider when deciding whether to grant a parent’s proposed relocation request. Those factors are:
- The nature, quality, extent of involvement, and duration of the child’s relationship with the party proposing to relocate and with the nonrelocating party, siblings, and other significant persons in the child’s life. For example, the court will consider who is the more consistent primary caretaker of the child(ren).
- 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. Is the child so young that they will not even realize the family is moving? Is this a critical school year for the child where moving could be detrimental? Does the child have friends, family, established activities, therapists, and doctors in the community that would make it incredibly difficult for the child should he or she move far away?
- The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the nonrelocating party and the child through suitable custody arrangements, considering the logistics and financial circumstances of the parties. Considerations may include whether parties have access to Facetime and other video devices, whether a party can financially travel to the other’s residence, and whether a party will be able to physically travel and if their work schedule will allow it.
- The child’s preference, taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child. An older child may have the ability to speak to the court about his or her preference where to live and why.
- Whether there is an established pattern of conduct of either party to promote or thwart the relationship of the child and the other party. For example, a party who has exhibited a past pattern of behavior of attempting to alienate the other parent from the child(ren) will have a more difficult time convincing the court to allow a relocation with him or her.
- Whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for the party seeking the relocation, including, but not limited to, financial or emotional benefit or educational opportunity. Is the relocating party moving for a new job that is financially “impossible” to turn down?
- 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. Will the relocation be in a nicer, safer community that can provide greater academic opportunities (i.e. better schools) for the child(ren)?
- The reasons and motivation of each party for seeking or opposing the relocation. If the move is for genuine purposes, such as moving to be closer to family and establish a better support system for parent and child, then the court may find a benefit to the relocation. However, if the move is for nefarious reasons, like attempting to estrange the other parent, then a court will not look favorably on said relocation request.
- 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.
- Any other factor affecting the best interest of the child. This is a catch-all where a party may present any relevant information or evidence to the court not covered by the aforementioned factors.
Moreover, the party proposing the relocation will have the burden of proof to demonstrate, via the factors, that the relocation is in the best interests of the child. To do this, evidence, testimony, and oral argument may be presented. Obermayer Family Law Attorneys are experienced in handling the nuances and complexities of custody and relocation cases. For more information, set up a consultation today to discuss the future of your family.
The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel, and should not be relied on as such. For legal advice or answers to specific questions, please contact one of our attorneys.