Leaving California with children after divorce

Parents who have an existing California custody agreement may have restrictions about how far either parent can move with the children. If a parent who has primary custody wants to relocate out of state, the other parent may oppose the move in court. 

These are the California guidelines that apply for relocation with children after divorce. 

The role of primary or shared custody 

The parent who wants to move must tell the other parent at least 45 days before the relocation. This requirement does not apply to moves that will last less than 30 days. When parents do not agree about a move for their children, the burden of proof varies depending on the existing custody arrangement. When parents have equal or nearly equal physical custody of the children, the parent who wants to move must prove to the judge that this action serves their best interests. 

When one parent has primary physical custody, the other parent must show the court that the move would harm the child’s best interests. He or she may contest the move by requesting a modification to the existing custody arrangement for shared physical custody. 

The best interest standard 

When determining whether the move supports or harms the child’s best interests, California judges consider these factors: 

  • Why the parent wants to relocate 
  • The benefits of the move for the child’s development, health and well-being 
  • The extended family connections in the proposed new locations 
  • The impact of the move on the relationship between the child and the other parent 
  • The distance between the parents’ residences after the proposed move 
  • The parents’ historic ability to coparent without conflict 
  • Whether a custody change could harm the child’s best interest 
  • Whether the child currently has a stable living situation 

Even shorter moves without California are subject to this process. Any relocation that will impact the family’s existing parenting schedule requires legal notice to the other parent. You can also make provisions about relocation in your initial custody arrangement. 

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