Each relocation case is unique and the outcome depends on the facts of the case.
Moving with a Custody Order
When parents of minor children separate and have a custody order, either parent's ability to move becomes limited. If one parent decides to move away and wants the child(ren) to move too, that parent must get approval from the other parent and/or any other person with custodial rights before moving. If the other parties do not approve the move, the moving parent must get permission (a court order) from the court.
Pennsylvania's custody law requires the moving parent to do several things before relocating. First, the moving parent must notify the other parent and/or other people with custodial rights of their plan to move. The notice must be sent by certified mail with return receipt requested. Notice usually needs to be sent at least 60 days before the planned move. The moving parent must also provide a form, called a "Counter-Affidavit Regarding Relocation," to the other parent and/or other people with potential custodial rights. The other parent and/or other people with custodial rights can use this document to consent or object to the relocation. Providing correct notice and filing the correct documents with the court can be complicated. It is best to consult with an attorney to be certain to comply with any legal requirements.
If the other party objects to the move, a court may give approval for the move. A judge will make a decision about the relocation after hearing all the relevant facts in the individual case. Ultimately, the parent who wants to move must convince the judge that moving will be in the child(ren)'s best interests.
What The Judge Considers
The judge will consider many factors when making its decision. The court will look at:
- The child's relationship with each parent, siblings, and other people in the child's life;
- The age, developmental stage, and special needs of the child;
- The ability for the parent who is not moving to have a relationship with the child;
- The child's preference;
- Conduct of either parent to help or hurt the child's relationship with the other parent;
- If relocating will improve the child or the parent's quality of life;
- The reason for moving and/or opposing the move;
- Present and past abuse by a party or member of the party's household;
- If there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused parent; and
- Any other factor affecting the child's best interests.
Penalties for Moving Without Consent or Court Approval
It is very important for moving parents to understand that there can be harsh penalties if a parent relocates without getting proper consent or court approval. For instance, the court might change the custody order to give the other parent physical custody of the child. Or, if the moving parent violates a custody order by relocating without approval, the court could find the moving parent in contempt and order legal penalties or fines against that parent. The moving parent might also face criminal charges if they move without getting proper approval.
Convincing a judge to permit a move can be challenging. Each custody case is different, so the moving parent must consider their circumstances carefully. A parent wishing to move should discuss their plans with an attorney as soon as a parent thinks they might want to move. An attorney can help the parent through the legal steps for relocation and can help organize the facts of the case to help the judge make a decision.
PCADV Works to Increase Custody Options and Safety
- PCADV's member programs work in every county to provide domestic violence victims and families with emergency shelter, legal options and other services to help victims gain financial stability and independence.
- PCADV legal department attorneys provide technical assistance to advocates and attorneys helping domestic violence victims who face custody-related legal issues.
- PCADV offers training about custody, Protection from Abuse, and working with families affected by domestic violence.
- PCADV provides technical support to community leaders to develop Supervised Visitation Centers in their counties.
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The information provided on this website is intended for informational purposes only. The information provided under this topic is not legal advice, does not create an attorney-client relationship, and is not a substitute for contacting an experienced attorney. Read our full legal disclaimer.
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- A User-Friendly Guide to Pennsylvania's New Child Custody Law