Pennsylvania law provides strict guidelines and procedures when a parent wants to relocate with a child. Generally speaking, relocations are prohibited unless every individual who has custody rights to the child consents to the proposed relocation or the court approves the proposed relocation.
WHAT IS RELOCATION?
“Relocation” occurs when a party seeks to change the residence of the child which would significantly impair the ability of the non-relocating parent to exercise his or her custodial rights. Courts look to not only the amount visitation time, but the non-relocating parent’s ability to co-parent. For instance, a court may look to whether the non-relocating parent can still coach a child’s sports team, attend doctor’s appointments, and attend parent-teacher conferences. Courts will also assess whether the move is practical including the reasons for the move. For example, the relocating parent may contend that the relocation is necessary for a higher salary, but the Court will want to make sure that it is not a pretext for some other reason.
WHAT IS THE LEGAL PROCESS FOR RELOCATION?
A relocating party must notify all others who have custody rights to the child. Notice must be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, and shall be given no later than the 60th day before the date of the proposed relocation. Notice can also be given no later than the tenth day after the date that the individual knows of the relocation if the individual did not know and could not reasonably have known of the relocation in sufficient time to comply with the 60 day notice requirement and it is not reasonably possible to delay the date of relocation so as to comply with the 60 day notice requirement. The notice must include specific information that is set forth in the statute.
WHAT ARE THE NON-RELOCATING PERSON’S RIGHTS?
The purpose of the notice requirement is to allow the non-relocating person an opportunity to object to the proposed relocation and to seek a temporary or permanent order to prevent the relocation. If the non-relocating party objects, then a hearing will be held for the Court to determine whether the relocating parent can proceed with the move.
WHAT FACTORS WILL THE COURT CONSIDER?
As stated above, the court must determine whether there would be a significant impairment of the ability of the non-relocating parent to exercise his or her custodial rights. The party proposing the relocation has the burden of establishing that the relocation will serve the best interests of the child. Factors include:
- 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.
Pennsylvania law has established relocating guidelines to protect the interests of the relocating person, the non-relocating person, and of course, the children. Anyone involved in this situation should hire an experienced divorce and family law attorney immediately for advice and guidance through this complex and often contentious process. Contact The Martin Law Firm today for a free consultation at 215-687-4053.