Relocation in Custody Cases
If a party in a custody case wants to move and also maintain custody of the parties’ minor child, he or she must follow specific relocation requirements that are present in every custody Order in Pennsylvania. Typically, if a party moves a short distance away and the move would not necessitate any changes to the custody schedule, then the party can simply notify the other party of the move, the updated contact information, and any other resident(s) of the new address. Sometimes, the other party may request, or the Court may require, that the party moving provide photos of the new residence, a lease, or other information regarding the new residence and the accommodations for the children.
If a party is moving far away, the move will require a child to change schools, or the move will necessitate changes to the custody schedule, then the Court will consider the move a “relocation” which requires either the other party’s consent, or permission from the Court to relocate.
The party who intends to move must serve a Notice of Proposed Relocation on the other party at least 60 days prior to the planned move, although it is best to do so as far in advance of the move as possible. If the other party consents to the relocation, then a hearing on the requested relocation is not required. If the other party does not consent, then the Court will hold a hearing to determine if the relocation is in the best interest of the child.
Similar to a custody trial, the Court’s tantamount concern in a relocation hearing is the best interests of the child(ren) involved. The Court will consider various factors including, but not limited to, the parties’ respective relationships with the child(ren); the child(ren)’s needs; the logistics of the child(ren) maintaining relationships with both parties despite the distance; the child(ren)’s preference; whether the relocation will enhance the child(ren)’s well-being; the reasons for the relocation; and any abuse committed by either party.
Often, if a relocation is granted, the custody schedule will need to change. The party who is relocating may be required to pay for the bulk of the child(ren)’s transportation or to provide transportation for the child(ren) for the other party’s custody time. Other changes to the custody Order, such as more video calls or phone calls with the party who is not relocating, may also be made.
In some cases, while a party may be permitted to move, the Court may order that the child(ren) stay in school in the nonrelocating party’s district. Just because a relocating party had primary custody of the child(ren) prior to a move does not mean that they will retain primary custody; in some instances, the Court may permit them to move, but grant primary custody to the nonrelocating party. It is important to keep in mind that any time a party files to request that the Court modify the custody Order, whether for relocation or any other purpose, the Court may modify the Order in a way that one of the parties or both parties did not foresee.
If you are interested in discussing relocation in further depth with one of our attorneys, please contact Tanner Law at (717) 731-8114 for a consultation.