If you are a divorced parent and thinking of moving away with your child, you may have questions about what to do. You need to follow certain steps if there’s another parent in the equation.
Usually, you can relocate with a child even if you’re subject to a parenting plan, but you need to follow some legal processes first. A child custody lawyer can assist with your choice and answer all your important questions.
Can You Move With Your Child If You Have a Parenting Plan In Washington State?
Having a parenting plan doesn’t mean you won’t be able to move to another town or state. You are generally allowed to move with your child as long as you go through the required legal process with the other parent.
Moving Within the Same School District
If you are moving to a location within the same school district your child attends, you do not need to follow the same procedures that other scenarios require. All you need to do is give “actual notice” to the other parent. Actual notice occurs when you give notice directly to the other party. You can do this verbally or in writing so there is a record of it.
The other parent does not have the right to object to a move that keeps the child in the same school district. They could try and modify the parenting plan at this point, but no formal process or court proceedings need to occur.
Moving to Another School District
If your child lives with you most of the time and you are planning to move outside of their current school district, the situation is a little more complicated. You are required to give notice to the other parent or anyone entitled to visitation in your parenting plan.
You must provide notice within 60 days of the day you plan to relocate. The other party can file an objection to try and stop the move if they serve you notice personally within 30 days or if they serve you by mail within 33 days.
If the other parent doesn’t file an objection within that time frame, you may be allowed to move without further court action. If they raise an objection, however, you are subject to a hearing with a judge. You may want to consult with a family law attorney during this time. They can answer your questions and give you a better chance of the outcome you want.
Moving Out of State with a Parenting Plan
Much like moving to another school district, you have to file a Notice of Intended Relocation and serve it to the other parent if you are moving out of state. They will have 30 days to file a response objecting to the move. If they fail to do so, then the judge can permit you to move with your child.
If the other parent files an objection in response, a judge will decide after hearing your case. Even if they don’t give proper notice, the other parent can still file an objection to stop you from relocating.
Generally, you should be permitted to relocate unless the judge determines that it would not be in the child’s best interest.
What Happens If You Don’t Give Notice in Your Parenting Plan Before You Move?
The court can impose sanctions if you don’t give notice before moving. These sanctions can include the court ordering the custodial parent to pay the non-custodial parent’s attorney fees, being held in contempt of court, or even being ordered to move back to the original location.
How the Judge Will Decide
A judge schedules a hearing when the other parent files an objection. They will hear the argument and evidence and will make a decision accordingly, not unlike how they would in a custody hearing.
Washington law states that the court must allow relocation unless the parent filing the objection can prove that the child would be better off staying where they are. The factors that the judge will consider include the following:
- the strength, nature, quality, extent of involvement, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent, siblings, and other significant persons in the child’s life
- any prior agreements made between the parents
- whether it is more harmful for the child to lose contact with the parent that is moving or the one that is staying behind
- whether either parent is subject to visitation limits because of prior acts of abandonment, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, or domestic violence and sexual assault
- the reasons the parents are asking for or opposing relocation
- the age of the child and the impact a move could have on them based upon their needs
- the quality of life, resources, and opportunities available to the child in either location
- the availability of ways to continue a relationship with the parent who is not relocating
- any alternative options to relocation
- the financial impact and the logistics of the relocation
Please note that if both parents are sharing custody on a 50/50 basis, then the relocation will not automatically be permitted. Instead, the judge will consider whether or not the move is in the child’s best interest.
What If You Don’t Have a Parenting Plan?
The Parenting Plan order is the first thing to look at before you relocate with your child. If there isn’t one in place, no law applies and you are free to move with your child without any court proceedings.
However, you should still notify the non-custodial parent. If you leave without the other parnet knowing their child is moving, you could potentially violate Washington laws on custodial interference.
Do You Need a Family Lawyer?
In times like these, you should strongly consider consulting with a family law lawyer. At Anderson Hunter, our skilled and compassionate family law attorneys are here to support and guide you through the legal process. Hiring an attorney may be the best decision you can make to achieve the legal results you desire.
Give us a call to schedule a consultation. We’re here to help you navigate your legal questions regarding the child custody process.