One thing many Philadelphia couples don’t realize is divorce does have the potential to restrict the custodial parent’s ability to move out of the state, or even out of the city. As the custodial parent you need to be open to the idea that you may not be free to take that fancy new job somewhere else.
The courts tend to frown on relocation any time the relocation would restrict the non-custodial parent’s ability to continue parenting time, or to continue having a presence in your child’s life. Thus, you can’t just pack up and go. You’ll have to take steps to protect yourself if you want to try.
See also: What is Legal Custody?
The Definition of Relocation
Some moves are not considered relocations. You could move to a new neighborhood within Philadelphia, for example, without causing any problems.
A “relocation” in this case is considered to be any move which might impair the non-custodial parent’s ability to continue a relationship with the child. There is no hard and fast rule on how many miles this might be. It has a lot to do with your family’s individual situation. To be safe, you need to file a Notice of Relocation.
See the precise statute here.
Before you move you need to inform your ex, in writing, that you plan to relocate. You must do this 60 days before the planned move, and your notice needs to include the following pieces of information:
- Where you plan to move, including addresses and phone numbers
- A list of everyone who will be living at that residence
- The date of the move
- The school your child will be attending when you move
- The reason for the relocation
- A proposal for a new parenting time schedule. You’ll want to include who you propose pays for travel arrangements if they’re needed, and it’s better if your schedule includes the same amount of parenting time.
Your ex will have 30 days either to approve the notice, ignore the notice, or object to your proposed relocation.
If Your Ex Approves the Notice or Doesn’t Respond…
You’ll need to have your attorneys file an affidavit with the courts to make note of this. Not only will this free you to relocate, but it will also set the proposed parenting time order as the new reality.
If Your Ex Objects…
The court will schedule a hearing to rule on the relocation. They will be looking to see whether this is a good faith relocation with a legitimate reason, or whether you’re relocating to make things harder on the other parent, or on a whim. Getting a new job that pays a lot more money and will make life better for the child is more likely to look favorable than moving to be closer to your online boyfriend or girlfriend.
If You Don’t Follow These Steps…
Failing to follow these steps could mean facing a court order to bring the child back to Philadelphia. This can mean you cannot realistically move, or it could mean relinquishing custody to the other parent as you will be able to keep the child out of state. We often advise our clients to file a Notice of Relocation even if they aren’t sure the courts would see their move as a relocation, just to protect themselves.
Some clients feel like involving the courts or giving notice will mean they can’t move. So they try to slip under the radar and hope their spouse doesn’t object. This rarely works out well and constitutes a big risk. It’s better to be safe than sorry. This is true even if there isn’t a custody order in place. Pennsylvania courts take parental relationships very seriously, and try to ensure kids get time with both parents.
Don’t try to navigate the complex issues of divorce and custody agreements alone. There are pitfalls! Consult with the attorneys at Sadek and Cooper first. We’ve got the experience to help you navigate these sticky situations successfully.