Can a parent who shares joint custody move out of state?

Both parents have rights when they share joint legal custody, including the right to decide where the child will live. Co-parenting and joint physical custody arrangements work best when parents live near one another. However, career, family and other circumstances may create the need for one parent to move several hours away or even out of California.

If your former spouse has requested a move with your children, preserve your right to maintain a close parental relationship.

When can a parent move?

If the other parent has sole physical custody of your children, he or she can move without your permission unless the existing custody agreement specifically requires your OK. If you share physical custody, the parent who requests the move has to prove that the plan supports the child’s best interest. Factors considered in the best interest standard may include the following:

  • The child’s wishes depending on his or her age
  • The ability of each parent to provide sufficient care
  • The existing parenting plan schedule and how the plan would change after the proposed move
  • The child’s current ties to his or her local family, school and community
  • The child’s relationship with both parents

How can I attempt to stop the move?

In the presence of a joint physical custody agreement, the parent who wants to move must request a change to sole physical custody. You can challenge this change as well as file your own motion for sole physical custody if you believe the move would harm the child’s best interests.

You can also seek mediation to create a new parenting agreement that supports both the desire to move and your rights and wishes to maintain a strong relationship with your kids as they grow up. Because the state does not have strict guidelines about next steps when a move is highly contested, the judge has full discretion to determine the best situation for your child. For this reason, attempt to reach an independent agreement rather than leaving custody up to the court.

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