When Home Changes: Child Custody Relocation And Your Parental Rights/Obligations

by | Nov 16, 2023 | Child Custody And Visitation

As families contemplate new horizons, the complex landscape of child custody relocation unfolds, presenting both challenges and opportunities for parents navigating the intricacies of moving with their children. It’s a bit of a maze, but don’t worry, we’re here to help you figure it out and make the best choices for your children. In the aftermath of a divorce, it’s inevitable that an ex-couple’s lives will diverge, even when they have children together. That shared responsibility makes the situation more complex when one of them wishes to move far away, out of state, or internationally, whether they have primary custody of the children or not.

There are plenty of reasons why someone might want to relocate post-divorce—a better job opportunity in another city, the desire to be closer to extended family, or the ability to continue their education, to name a few—but when children are involved, it is not as simple as just picking up and getting a fresh start elsewhere.

Here are a few issues you need to consider prior to relocation to ensure that you continue to fulfill your legal obligations while seeking the best possible outcome for yourself and your children:


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Relocation and Child Custody 

In California, if a parent is seeking to change their children’s home in a way that would interfere with current custody and visitation orders, it can require a court order to authorize the move. The primary consideration under California law is what will be in the best interests of the child, so many factors will be examined to determine if the proposed relocation is suitable.

This can include whether the custodial parent has sole physical custody, the reasons for the move, how moving will affect the child’s ongoing relationship with the non-relocating parent, and more. Any relocation cross-country or out of the country will necessitate significant changes to a child’s routine and environment, such as a change in schools and an altered amount of visitation with the non-moving parent, so a judge must review the agreements already in place and the details of the proposed move to rule on what will be best for the children.

child custody relocation California

If you are considering relocating with your child, the first step is to look over your existing child custody judgment or order, which may spell out the steps you need to take if you want to move away. Generally, California requires that you give your co-parent written notice of your intent to move at least 45 days ahead of time. You should never move away without either obtaining your co-parent’s consent to the relocation or getting a court order approving the move, if your ex-spouse doesn’t agree. Doing so is likely to negatively affect your ability to retain custody in the long run and may be considered criminal conduct if you also attempt to hide your child’s location from your ex or restrict their contact. 

Whether you’re the parent seeking the move or the one who will be left behind, the best course of action is to consult an experienced family law attorney to help you understand your rights. Even if you both agree that the move is for the best, details of visitation, support, and who will pay for travel costs will need to be negotiated. Of course, in the event of a dispute, legal representation is essential to make an effective case either for or against relocation.


Relocation Impact on Child Support 

Child support obligations don’t automatically change if a parent moves out of state; the paying parent will need to continue paying at the current level until a modification is made. The state where the order was originally entered also continues to have jurisdiction unless a parent successfully files to have the jurisdiction changed to another state. In such a case, differing state law may result in a change to the amount of support awarded.

child custody relocating internationally from united states

The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) dictates that states must work together to enforce and modify child support orders, so custodial parents have recourse to collect on unpaid support throughout the United States. The picture is less clear if a parent has relocated internationally. While some countries have reciprocal agreements with the U.S. that allow for the enforcement of child support orders across borders, it is by no means all. Having an attorney experienced in dealing with international relocation issues can help determine what recourse is available in your situation.


Travel Expenses and Child Support 

If one parent is relocating with the children, the custody agreement should spell out who is responsible for travel costs, as well as addressing the logistics of travel. When parents are living in different states, or different countries, these expenses can be significant, especially if the children are very young. For example, a child who is too young to travel unaccompanied may need to have an adult fly with them in order for the noncustodial parent to have visitation, or there may be additional fees for older children flying as unaccompanied minors. 

In California, travel expenses related to visitation are considered extraordinary expenses that can be taken into account when determining child support obligations. How exactly these should be divided between the parents and what constitutes reasonable costs to be included is up to the discretion of the court. It is best to provide as much documentation as possible to support what you have paid or expect to pay if you are seeking a modification of your child support obligations based on anticipated travel expenses.


Expert Family Law Attorneys for Domestic or International Custody Cases

The legal team at Hoover Krepelka is experienced in dealing with child custody and support issues both in the U.S. and internationally. Our attorneys speak nine languages, giving us an unparalleled ability to assist in cases that extend beyond domestic borders. If you’re considering moving away, or if your ex-spouse wants to relocate with your children, we can help you understand your legal options and protect your rights. To schedule a consultation with an attorney, fill out the form below.


California Child Custody and Relocation FAQs


1. What factors does the court consider when modifying child support due to relocation?

When modifying child support due to relocation in California, the court must review the existing order to determine modifiability. The presumptively correct amount of support is dictated by the California “guideline” and deviations from that will be allowed in specific circumstances.

2. How does international relocation impact child support obligations in California?

International relocation may impact child support obligations in California. It may involve complex legal considerations, including cost of living in the new country. Consulting with an attorney is essential when dealing with such situations.

3. Can I modify my child support agreement if I need to move out of California?

Yes, you can request a modification of your child support agreement if you need to move out of California. The court will consider the new circumstances and may adjust the child support amount accordingly.

*The above is not meant to be legal advice, and every case is different. Feel free to reach out to us at Hoover Krepelka, LLP, if you have any questions. Information contained in this content and website should not be relied on as legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice on your specific situation. 

Visiting this site or relying on information gleaned from the site does not create an attorney-client relationship. The content on this website is the property of Hoover Krepelka, LLP and may not be used without the written consent thereof.


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