According to news reports, an Australian mother lost custody of her daughter for leaving the toddler alone while she went to the gym to work out. Apparently the mother admitted to routinely leaving her 19-month-old unattended while she would visit the gym for 45 minutes or take her dogs on 20-minute runs. The father applied to the local court requesting that the child be relocated to Victoria to be near his extended family. Although Australia is a long way away from San Diego, many of the same general family law principles apply to child custody cases in both places. If you are facing a child custody dispute of any kind, you are encouraged to contact a local family law attorney who can help to protect your rights for the ultimate benefit of the children.
There are two separate, but related issues presented in this case: 1) the request for a change in the custody arrangement, namely, taking custody away from one parent and awarding it to another, and 2) the request by one parent to relocate the child who is at the heart of the custody arrangement. Here in California, one or both parents may seek to modify or change an existing custody order. If both parents agree to change the order, they may do so by way of an “agreement.” If they do not agree, one parent is required to file documents with the court requesting a change of the current child custody and visitation order. Typically, there would need to be a significant change in circumstances to justify a modification of the order. In this case, the court found that the child had been neglected by the mother and decided that it would be best for the child to live with her father.
Relocation of children under an existing custody arrangement is not a simple matter. The circumstances will vary from case to case, and the law can be complicated. It is important to consult with an attorney if you want to relocate with your children, or if you are worried that the other parent may move away with your children. Generally, however, a parent with a permanent order for sole physical custody can move away with the children, unless the other parent can show that the move would harm the children. The situation is different if parents share custody (also known as “joint custody”). In those cases, if one parent does not want the kids to move, then the one who does would have to show that the move would be in the best interests of the children.
In the case described above, the judge ultimately ordered that the father and child could relocate to a Victorian border town. Under the order, the mother is allowed up to four visits each year, for up to a week each time. The order further prohibits the mother from leaving the child unsupervised while in her care. There are many complicated details to sort through when trying to modify a child custody order, especially when one parent wants to move away with the children. An experienced family law attorney would be able to help guide you through the process with full knowledge of the local laws and procedures applicable to your family situation.
Parents with questions about child custody matters may 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, Encinitas, Scripps Ranch, San Diego, and throughout Southern California. For a consultation with a dedicated 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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