Question

Can I move and maintain custody after a Pennsylvania divorce?

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Answer

When a family moves, it can be difficult, especially for the children. There will be new schools and friends, and they will need to adjust to a new home.

If you are divorced and you have custody of your children, there are legal considerations, too. The most important thing you must figure out is if the move is being done with the best interests of your children in mind. It could also impact your former partner’s custodial rights and visitation.

Pennsylvania’s Relocation and Child Custody Laws

Pennsylvania takes relocation of a child of divorced or separated parents very seriously. It will consider the effect the move will have on the child’s relationship with the nonmoving parent and how it will impact their custodial rights.

In 2015, the state revised the custody statute to include and codify principles developed by case law that involve the relocation of minors. If one parent wants to move a child, they cannot do it without consent of the other parent or court.

One major issue is how the move will impact the noncustodial parent’s ability to remain involved in their child’s life. Will they be able to continue to have a say in their child’s medical needs and educational choices?

The new law requires the custodial parent who intends to move to send notice (through certified mail) about their relocation plans at least 60 days before the move.

The notification must include:

  • Address of the new residence
  • Names and ages of the people who will live together
  • Reason(s) for the move
  • Relocation date
  • Proposed revised visitation schedule
  • School and school district information

The move will be allowed if the non-relocating parent fails to object, both parents agree to it, or the court approves.

Steps noncustodial parent must take if they object to the move

If the noncustodial parent objects, they have 30 days to respond. They can request a temporary or permanent order that prevents the move.

After the filing, a hearing will be held. The court will then decide if the move will be allowed and if there is a need for custody modification.

The court will consider a variety of factors that could affect the child, including:

  • Child’s relationship with each parent, siblings and anyone else who might play a significant role in their life
  • Child’s needs and the impact the move will have on their physical, education and emotional needs
  • How the move impacts the child’s relationship with the nonrelocating parent and their custodial arrangements
  • Child’s preference
  • Conduct of both parents
  • Financial, emotional and education impact on the child
  • Each parents’ motivations in seeking or objecting to the move
  • Child abuse issues
  • Ability of the noncustodial parent to stay in contact with the child (with improved connectivity like Skype and Facetime, this is becoming less of an issue)
  • If the best interests of the children are being considered

How the court responds

The court does not always allow the move. If you are considering a move with a child, it is wise to do some research. You should review the documents and laws of the state and the county where you live.

That will help you understand the process and will help support your claim. A family law and divorce attorney can also help you sort through the issues and help you build a stronger case if you would like to relocate with your child.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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