Readjusting parenting plans: When a custodial parent wants to move

Sometimes life throws curveballs, and you may need to adjust accordingly. When children are in the mix, life changes can be a little more difficult. If you are a custodial parent in Washington and follow a parenting plan with the noncustodial mother or father, you must recognize that parent's rights in the event that you and your child need to relocate to another place. Before you make any changes, be certain that your adjustment is in accordance with Washington's Child Relocation Act.

If you are planning to move within the current school district of your child, you must provide notice of the relocation to the noncustodial parent and any other person entitled to visitation rights. In this notice, you should include your new address, telephone number and any relevant school or daycare information. See RCW 26.09.450.

However, if you intend to relocate somewhere out of your child's current school district, you will need to complete a few more steps. The details are in RCW 26.09.440. Such procedures help acknowledge the rights of the noncustodial parent and protect the best interests of your child.

First, you must give notice of the move at least 60 days before the intended moving date. There are exceptions to this requirement (for example, in the case of an emergency). You should serve the notice on the noncustodial parent by legal messenger or certified mail, return receipt. The statute requires specific language in the notice, so you must be careful to use the mandatory form. RCW 26.09.440.

If you do not comply with the notice requirements as a custodial parent, you could compromise your request to relocate or even be sanctioned by a court. For this reason, it is important to understand your legal responsibilities. You do not want to diminish any privileges with your child.

If you are the noncustodial parent who contests the custodial parent's move, you must file your objection with the court within 30 days of receiving the relocation notice.

Ultimately, if the provisions of a parenting plan are about to change, all parties (including the child) will be affected. Whether you are the custodial or noncustodial parent of a child, you have specific rights and responsibilities. For this reason, it is important to get the assistance of an experienced family law attorney. A good lawyer can be essential in protecting the future interests of your child.