Divorce involves many life-changing scenarios and difficult choices. One of those might involve moving out of state with your child. Even if your divorce in Washington State is final, a major move impacts both parents and the children. So, when a parent involved in a custody agreement wishes to relocate with their child, they must get consent from the other parent and/or the family law court.
Getting Consent from the Non-Custodial Parent
According to Washington State law (RCW 26.09.440), a custodial parent cannot relocate outside the child’s current school district without giving the non-custodial parent sufficient notice. Specifically, you must provide formal notice to the other parent at least 60 days prior to the intended relocation date or as soon as possible after you know about the move.
The written notice must include some specific information:
- The date of the move
- The new address (if known)
- Why the move is necessary
- Contact information for school and childcare
- New Parenting Plan
The only exceptions to this notice requirement are if you are moving to avoid an immediate and clear risk to the health and safety of your child or you are entering a domestic violence shelter. In these cases, the relocation notice may be delayed for 21 days, or a judge can waive the notice requirements.
Impact of the Child’s Move Must Be a Positive One
Washington State laws will “presume” that, in most situations, a child’s move with their parent is in their best interests and permitted. However, the other parent can object to the move and try to convince the court not to allow it. Specifically, the parent must file an objection no greater than 30 days before the anticipated move date.
The court will hear the case and determine if the child’s move is a positive one. Some of the factors the judge will consider include:
- The reasons the parents are seeking and opposing relocation;
- The quality, nature, and strength of the parent’s involvement with the child;
- Any prior agreements between the parties, such as a Parenting Plan;
- Whether less contact with the non-custodial parent will be harmful;
- The age and needs of the child;
- Whether either parent has issues with domestic violence or other offenses;
- The resources and quality of life available to the child in either location;
- Any alternatives to relocation;
- The different ways the child can maintain contact with the non-custodial parent; and
- The logistics and financial impact of the move.
This list of criteria will become even more important if you and the other parent substantially share parenting time. The judge will carefully weigh these factors to determine whether the move will be in the best interests of the child.
If you are considering a move or wish to oppose the relocation of your child’s other parent, Bighorse & Associates can represent your and your child’s interests. Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation with one of our family law attorneys.