Do you have custody of a child and are considering relocating? You may need approval from the Court.

Pennsylvania enacted a new Child Custody Act, effective January 24, 2011.  Even if a custody arrangement was in existence before January 24, 2011, this act applies to all hearings after that date.  As part of this act, a party cannot “relocate” without Court approval or consent of every other individual who has custody rights to the child.

The first question is whether every move is a “relocation”.  The Child Custody Act defines relocation as, “A change in residence of the child which significantly impairs the ability of the nonrelocating party to exercise custodial rights.”  The Superior Court has already addressed this.  The parent seeking to move argued that the relocation would result in more time with the other parent.  However, the Court considered that the move would also take away from that parent’s ability to participate in the child’s extra curricula activities.  Therefore, the proposed move was a “relocation” that was subject to Court review.  As with most issues in family law, the circumstances of each case must be considered.

A party seeking to relocate must provide notice before doing so.  The Act provides a procedure for objections, modifications to custody orders, a hearing and court approval.  A party facing any situation like this would do well to seek legal assistance from an attorney.  A failure to follow the proper procedures may be held against the moving party.

Ultimately, unless the parties consent, the Court must consider 16 factors set forth in the relocation statute to determine whether to approve the relocation request.  In addition, the Court must consider additional factors which are generally applicable to custody arrangements to determine whether to modify an existing custody order.  It is the burden of the relocating party to establish that relocation will serve the best interests of the child.  Further, each party must establish the integrity of his or her motives in seeking or opposing relocation.  Therefore, it is important for the party seeking to relocate to put forth a good case for meeting the factors that the Court will consider.

Our office represents people in custody disputes, including relocation.  If you need help, call The Seach Law Offices at 359-3283.