This Legal Guide summarizes Washington State’s Relocation Act (RCW 26.09.430 through 26.09.480). If the custodial parent plans to move, that person has to give prior notice of the move to the noncustodial parent (or anyone else with custodial or visitation rights). If there is no objection within 30 days, the move will be allowed. If an objection is filed with the court, the court will schedule an evidentiary hearing to decide if the move will be allowed.
Notice of a move outside school district
If the move is outside the child’s school district, the custodial parent must give notice to the noncustodial parent by personal service or by mail requiring a return receipt. This notice must be at least 60 days before the intended move. If the custodial parent could not have known about the move in time to give 60 days’ notice, that person must give notice within 5 days after learning of the move. The notice must contain the information required in RCW 26.09.440 [use the blank form DRPSCU 07.0500, Notice of Intended Relocation of a Child].
Notice of a move within school district
If the move is within the same school district, the custodial parent must provide actual notice by any reasonable means. The noncustodial parent in that event may not object to the move, but may ask for modification under RCW 26.09.260.
Delay of notice to avoid harm
Notice may be delayed for 21 days if the custodial parent is entering a domestic violence shelter, or is moving to avoid a clear, immediate and unreasonable risk to health and safety. If information is protected under a court order, or the address confidentiality program, it may be withheld from the notice. In addition, the custodial parent may ask the court to waive any notice requirements that may endanger the health and safety of a person or a child.
Punishment for failure to give notice of a move
Failure of the custodial parent to give the required notice before relocating with a child may be grounds for the court to impose a fine or other sanctions, including contempt. There are many details in the statute, so it is best to have an attorney help with the notice so that the move is not later successfully attacked in court. If proper notice is not given, the court may order that the child (and thus the relocating parent) must return to the original county before the move until a trial with testimony can be held.
Relocation is normally allowed
If the noncustodial parent does not file an objection within 30 days after service of the notice, the relocation will be permitted, and the custodial parent’s proposal for a revised parenting plan will be adopted. If an objection is timely filed, a hearing will be scheduled to take testimony on the proposed move and objections to it. The statute and cases say that the move will be allowed if the custodial parent meets the criteria for the 11 statutory factors considered by the court (see Bruce Clement‘s AVVO Legal Guide on “Relocation With the Children – The 11 Statutory Factors”). Reasons which are often found to be sufficient include: A new job or employment opportunity; an important college course; sick parents who need care; a spouse who has to move due to a job change or military reassignment. Reasons which are often not found to be sufficient include: moving to stay with a boyfriend/girlfriend; attempts to cut off visitation; better grade school; nicer house.
How to object to relocation
A person entitled to court ordered visitation can file an objection to the child’s relocation whether or not he or she received proper notice. This objection may be filed by using the mandatory form WPF DRPSCU 07.0700, (Objection to Relocation/Petition for Modification of Parenting Plan/Residential Schedule). The objection must be filed in court, and served, within 30 days on all persons entitled to time with the child. There are many details to the statute, so it is best to consult with an attorney to make sure your objections are properly made.
When relocation is prohibited
Relocation can be prohibited by court order. In addition, the custodial parent cannot move the child during the time for objection unless: (a) the delayed notice provisions apply; or (b) a court order allows the move. If the objecting person schedules a hearing for a date within 15 days of timely service of the objection, the custodial parent cannot move the child before the hearing unless there is a clear, immediate and unreasonable risk to the health or safety of a person or child.
DISCLAIMER: (C) Bruce Clement This Blog is provided for general educational purposes only. By using or participating in this site you agree and understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the attorney author. The law changes frequently, and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information provided in this Blog is general in nature and may not apply to the factual circumstances in your situation. The applicable law may be different in the State or States where the relevant facts occurred. For a definitive solution to your situation you should seek legal advice from an attorney who (1) is licensed to practice in the state which has jurisdiction; (2) has experience in the area of law you are asking about, and (3) has been retained as your attorney for representation or consultation.
Additional resources provided by the author
RCW 26.09.430 through 26.09.480.
Bruce Clement‘s Blog on “Relocation With the Children – The 11 Statutory Factors”