California laws about custody and relocation
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California laws about custody and relocation

California family courts strive to preserve a child’s stability after divorce. Sometimes, however, the judge may agree to let the custodial parent move the child to another state.

These are the factors in California that govern decisions about relocation in shared custody situations.

Custodial factors

Parents who share physical custody have the equal right to decide about relocation out of state. The parent who requests the move must show the court benefits the best interests of the child.

When one parent has primary physical custody, the burden of proof shifts to the noncustodial parent. He or she can contest the move on the grounds that the child would experience physical or emotional harm because of relocation. The noncustodial parent can also request a change in custody at this time.

Best interest factors

The judge will consider the stated reason for relocation, whether the parent plans to move an extended distance within the state or leave California. For example, he or she will ask about whether the parent has a stable job, a comfortable home environment and extended family support in the new location.

California courts also review the child’s current relationship with both parents and how the move will affect those relationships. The judge must weigh those considerations against how the move will benefit the child.

The process of court approval relocation starts when one parent submits a legal petition. The other parent will receive at least 45 days’ notice in case he or she wants to oppose the move or ask for a custody modification.


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