Can I Move the Children Out-of-State During or After Divorce?

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If you are co-parenting a child but live separately from the child’s other parent, there are a host of complex legal issues you may have to work through when it comes to California child custody and visitation. Often, the most difficult issue that arises is when one parent wants to move to a different location or to a different state.

If you move to a different state and take your kids with you, it can make it more difficult for your children to maintain a relationship with their other parent.  The other parent may object to the relocation and you may find yourself wondering whether you are allowed to move and take your kids or whether there are limitations on your right to relocate.

California Child Custody: Can You Move Out-of-State With Your Kids?

If you have not yet filed for divorce and a custody agreement is not in place, generally you are free to relocate with your kids wherever you wish unless your spouse objects. If your spouse objects to a move, your spouse can seek a court order to prevent you from taking your children out-of-state. If your spouse files for divorce, this too, can make it impossible for you to just leave without permission as you typically cannot just take the children out of the state when divorce is pending.

If you are already divorced or you were never married to the child’s other parent, you should be permitted to take your children out-of-state if you have sole custody of the kids.  However, if there is a shared custody arrangement or if your spouse has visitation rights, you will need to seek the other parent’s permission to leave. If obtained, then your custody order can be easily changed and you can move to your new location.

What if The Other Parent Objects to Your Move?

If the other parent does not agree to allow you to move out-of-state, then you will need to go to court to obtain a move-away order before you can leave with your children. Do NOT take your chileren out-of-state by moving them in violation of a custody order and/or without permission from the other parent as this can be seen as parental kidnapping and is a serious crime.

Instead, you will need to petition the court to seek permission to leave despite the other parent’s objections convincing the court that it is in the best interest of the child to allow you to leave. Often, your case will benefit from showing how you plan to have the child maintain a relationship with the other parent from a new state by using vacation or telephone visits. Regardless of the approach, the court needs to be convinced that leaving the state is the best situation for your child. An experienced California divorce and family law attorney can help you to make a compelling case so you can get permission to leave the state.

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