Moving away from your child may be heart-wrenching, even though it is necessary. However, leaving Washington does not mean leaving your child's life. At Clement Law Center, our legal team often helps parents who are relocating to craft a parenting plan that keeps them from losing contact with their children.
Child custody agreements may be difficult to work out for Washington couples going through a divorce, but these issues are often compounded when one or both parents plan to relocate. Divorce often means starting a new life, and this may mean moving in order to take advantage of new opportunities. When children are involved in the relocation process, there may be additional challenges to face that pertain to visitation, physical custody, orders for child support payments and reimbursement for travel costs.
Parental relocation can certainly be challenging and we have written blog entries about various legal matters that may arise from relocation. Often times, parental relocation comes with the benefits of new work opportunities and a fresh start. However, it is also important to note that some people struggle with parental relocation, and we are not just speaking about non-custodial parents who stay behind. For some parents, moving to a new state or even a new city with their child can be incredibly difficult after their divorce, even though such a move may be in their best interests.
For many parents, it's almost that time of year again. The season when kids return to school, which can bring a number of stressors (such as buying clothes for school or supplies) and necessitate revisions to an entire family's routine. For some, this year's back-to-school season may be especially challenging. For example, those who have recently gone through a divorce or are dealing with other family law matters (such as disputes over child custody) may have a particularly tough time helping their kids work through these changes. This may also be true for some parents who are relocating in the wake of a divorce.
As a parent, you likely have many different challenges to work through in the wake of your divorce. Or, perhaps you are in the early stages of the process and are thinking about how splitting up with your spouse could affect your life. Either way, there are many stressors when it comes to the end of marriage, especially for parents. Not only do child support payments and custody disputes become problematic in some instances, but there are other legal matters involving children as well, such as parental relocation. Moreover, these issues are not only challenging for parents but can also be difficult for kids.
Since your Washington divorce, you may have struggled to make ends meet in a location that was only affordable with two incomes. While your current job and prospects in the area limit you, there are opportunities in other states that would greatly improve the quality of life for you and your child. However, as the Huffington Post notes, child custody can seriously complicate relocation, especially if the other parent objects.
There are many facets of the divorce process that can be challenging, especially for a parent. From custody disputes to child support orders and other divorce-related matters (property division, etc.), the end of a marriage can be a challenging time for anyone. With all of these issues, it should come as no surprise that many people experience stress during the divorce process and in the weeks and months after a divorce is finalized. Moreover, some people decide to relocate with their child in the wake of a divorce for a number of reasons, which can lead to even more stress and emotional tension.
Deciding to bring your marriage to an end may be tough, but there are times when couples realize that moving forward is necessary. Sometimes, the divorce process is relatively straightforward, while others, such as those who have children, may run into a number of challenges concerning family law. From child support to a custody dispute, legal issues involving children are often quite emotional and can have a significant impact on the futures of parents and children alike. Moreover, a parent may have uncertainty or concerns about relocating with their child after they have split up in Federal Way, or another Washington city.
Summary: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.
DisclaimerDISCLAIMER: (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"
The state of Washington plans to automatically convert thousands of same-sex couples to married status at the end of June 2014 if their domestic partnership had not already been replaced by marriage or if their legal union had already ended. The state had 6,500 domestic partnerships listed in its registry and was expected to send out notices to those couples by mid-March to alert them to the possible change in their marital status.