Move-Away Request Can Complicate A Child Custody Order

1319861_children_crossing.jpgDivorced parents in San Diego have a lot to contend with, from matters of financial support, daily logistical issues and, significantly, child custody arrangements. Unfortunately, while both parents typically want what is best for their children, they may not always agree on what that is. That is where the court comes in. Once the court-issued child custody order is in place, both parents are required to adhere to and follow all of its provisions. But life sometimes gets in the way and changes things: the custodial parent may be required (or wish) to move to another city, state or country, thereby complicating matters. If you or someone you know is involved in a child custody dispute, the best course of action is to contact an experienced San Diego family law attorney to help protect your rights.

In 2012, the California Center for Judicial Education and Research, (the Education Division of the Administrative Office of the Courts), issued a revised “Benchguide” on Custody and Visitation. Essentially, the document serves as a guide to California judges on how to handle matters of custody and visitation proceedings under the Family Code. Among other things, the Benchguide covers modification of custody orders, “move-away” disputes, and sets forth the state of the law with respect to each issue.

A “move-away” is also known as a “Change of Child’s Residence.” According to the Benchguide, a parent with physical custody has a presumptive right to change the child’s residence, but that right is subject to the power of the court to prohibit the change, if doing so would prejudice the rights or welfare of the child. California law currently requires that the reason for such a move need only be “sound” and in “good faith.” That is, the parent with physical custody may not attempt to move the child’s residence with the sole purpose of frustrating the other parent’s contact with the child. In reviewing a move-away request, the court will look to whether there is a good faith reason for the move, and if there is one, the court may not question the custodial parent’s judgment in making the request.

A move-away dispute could arise at the initial custody determination or once the judicial order is in place. If a move-away dispute occurs at the initial custody determination, the Benchguide suggests that the court has broad discretion, and is expected to review all of the circumstances affecting the best interest of the child. In either case, the custodial parent is not required to establish that the move is “necessary” or that it is in the “child’s best interest.” Instead, the non-custodial parent has the burden of showing that (1) the custodial parent has a “bad faith” reason for the move, or (2) the proposed move would cause detriment to the child. If the non-custodial parent presents evidence that the move would be to the child’s detriment, the court must determine whether a change of custody is in the child’s best interest.

A move-away dispute can be complicated no matter when it arises, due to changes in the law and the strong emotions of everyone involved. Parents involved should keep in mind that their children are at the center of the dispute and would benefit from the least amount of controversy as possible. An experienced and compassionate family law attorney can help the parties efficiently and smoothly resolve child custody matters.

f you have questions about a child custody matter, you are encouraged to contact Doppelt & Forney. Mr. Doppelt is a knowledgeable family law attorney with more than 20 years of experience representing parents in Southern California. Doppelt & Forney serves clients in Linda Vista, San Diego, Encinitas and Scripps Ranch. For a free consultation with a dedicated and experienced family lawyer, contact Doppelt & Forney through the law firm’s website or give us a call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).

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