A move-away order involves one parent moving to a different location with their child. Here is how a move-away order operates in California.

California laws surrounding move-away orders are constantly changing, therefore it is important for someone pursuing this route to maintain good communication with their attorney. If a parent is seeking to move away with their child, or they suspect that their (former) partner is planning to do the same, an attorney can advise on what steps to take as the situation evolves.

What is a move-away order and what does it look like in practice?

A move-away order is needed if one parent seeks to change their residence to a far enough distance that their previously drafted parenting plan needs to be revised. Move-away orders are common in cross-country moves, but they also can apply for relocations within the state. The standard for move-away orders is whether the current co-parenting schedule is impacted by the move. If the child’s main residence and access to their other parent are affected by this pending move, a move-away order is necessary.

Additional information regarding different move-away circumstances and the various rules that apply can be found here.

Typically, the parent who has sole physical custody of the child has the ability to move away with their child, but the waters can become murkier if the custody is permanent or temporary. It is important to keep in mind that while the “joint” or “sole” custody titles decided at the case’s origin matter, the judge will likely take each parent’s current schedule into consideration if a dispute arises. A lawyer can ensure the parent’s rights are protected when crafting the original parenting plan.

Related: Sole Legal and Physical Custody in California

How do I file a move-away order?

If one parent has primary custody, there is more flexibility for them to relocate with their child. California Family Code Section 7501 mandates that the “parent entitled to custody of a child has the right to change the residence of the child, subject to the power of the court to restrain a removal that would prejudice the rights or welfare of the child.” Court decisions based on this law can vary case-by-case. Some parents have needed to demonstrate that their move is necessary to make, and others’ requests are honored simply because they are the parent who has primary custody over their child. Furthermore, the non-custodial parent then bears the burden of proving that the pending move will not be in the child’s best interest, or that the child’s other parent is acting in bad faith when making their decision.

Related: Child Custody Laws in California: What You Need to Know

What do judges consider when making their decision to approve a move-away order?

Each parent is responsible for advocating for their child in front of the judge. Each party must attempt to prove that the child would benefit from moving (or staying) and why. The court will pay close attention to the child’s best interests, how the distance of the proposed move will impact their life (i.e. a potential school change and the academic and social implications of this outcome), their age, wishes, the existing relationship between the child with both parents, reasons for the move, as well as any economic factors involved.

The situation becomes more complicated when custody is shared. If the non-custodial parent is successful in proving that the move would not benefit their child, modifications to the current custody order may need to be made. On the other hand, if the court does approve the move-away order, measures will likely be taken to ease the move for the child and encourage their frequent communication with their other parent.

Related: Child Custody FAQs in California

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If you or a loved one would like to know more about how to obtain a move-away order in California, get your free consultation with one of our family law attorneys today!