Philadelphia, PA Child Relocation Attorney
Can a Custodial Parent Relocate With Their Child?
In Pennsylvania, the Child Custody Act (“Act”) governs all disputes related to child custody. The Act directly deals with the concerns that arise when a parent having primary physical custody of a child or children desires to relocate or move out of the jurisdiction of the Court with the child or children. Not every move qualifies as “relocation” under the Act, which defines relocation as a “change in residence of the child which significantly impairs the ability of a non-relocating party to exercise its custodial rights.”
In C.M.K. v. K.E.M., 2012 Pa. Super. 76 (Pa. Super. 2012) the Superior Court of Pennsylvania held that merely providing notice of a move and filing a Petition for Relocation with the Court does not mean that filing party concedes that a move qualifies as a relocation under the Act. In C.M.K. the Court found the mother’s move sixty-eight (68) miles away qualified as a relocation under the Act because, even though father received greater custodial time with the child, he would be unable to participate in weeknight dinners, teacher meetings, doctor appointments and coaching the child’s athletics.
The Act only permits relocation when all individuals with custody rights consent to the relocation or if the Court approves the relocation. The party wishing to relocate must provide notice to all other parties with custodial rights to the child at least sixty (60) days prior to the intended relocation. The party receiving the notification of relocation then has a chance to object to the proposed relocation. If the relocation is not consented to, then the Court will consider the matter on a case-by-case basis and the party requesting the relocation has the burden to show that the relocation would be in the child’s best interest.
The Act enumerates the factors considered by the Court in considering the proposed relocation, including:
- The nature, quality, extent of involvement and duration of the child’s relationship with the party proposing to relocate and with the non-relocating party, siblings and other significant persons in the child’s life.
- The age, developmental stage, needs of the child and the likely impact the relocation will have on the child’s physical, educational and emotional development, taking into consideration any special needs of the child.
- The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the non-relocating party and the child through suitable custody arrangements, considering the logistics and financial circumstances of the parties.
- The child’s preference, taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child.
- Whether there is an established pattern of conduct of either party to promote or thwart the relationship of the child and the other party.
- Whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for the party seeking the relocation, including, but not limited to, financial or emotional benefit or educational opportunity.
- Whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for the child, including, but not limited to, financial or emotional benefit or educational opportunity.
- The reasons and motivation of each party for seeking or opposing the relocation.
- The present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party’s household and whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party.
- Any other factor affecting the best interest of the child
The Court will also give extra weight to any factors that affect the safety of the child. Both the relocating parent and the non-relocating parent bear the burden of establishing the integrity of their motives for relocating or objecting to the relocation.
If the custody order already in place will be modified by the relocation, for example, if one parent’s custody is modified from “share physical custody” to “partial physical custody”, then the Court must also weigh the factors regarding the best interests of the child provided under the Act for entering a custody order. Those factors are:
- Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and the other party.
- The present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party’s household, whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party and which party can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision of the child.
- The parental duties performed by each party on behalf of the child.
- The need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life and community life.
- The availability of extended family.
- The child’s sibling relationships.
- The well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child’s maturity and judgment.
- The attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent, except in cases of domestic violence where reasonable safety measures are necessary to protect the child from harm.
- Which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child adequate for the child’s emotional needs.
- Which party is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child.
- The proximity of the residences of the parties.
- Each party’s availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate child-care arrangements.
- The level of conflict between the parties and the willingness and ability of the parties to cooperate with one another. A party’s effort to protect a child from abuse by another party is not evidence of unwillingness or inability to cooperate with that party.
- The history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or member of a party’s household.
- The mental and physical condition of a party or member of a party’s household.
- Any other relevant factor.
Similar to the weighing of the relocation factors, the Court will give additional weight to any factors that affect the child’s safety.
If you are considering relocating with your child, an experienced family law attorney can provide invaluable assistance in presenting your case to the Court.