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Parents may wish to relocate for various reasons. A better job opportunity may arise, family members may move to a different location, or military orders may require the parent to move. It is not uncommon for a primary residential parent to take legal action to relocate the child away from the other, non-custodial parent.
Washington law requires that before a parent relocates outside of the child’s school district, the relocating parent must provide the other parent with notice of intended relocation. Once the relocating parent has provided this notice, the other parent may contest the relocation. Failure to timely contest the relocation could result in automatic approval of the relocation.
If you are a custodial parent wishing to relocate or if you are a non-custodial parent wanting to contest a relocation, call a family law attorney in Spokane County at Crouse Erickson for help with the process: 509-624-1380.
Washington provides detailed rules about relocation in RCW § 26.09.430. The statute reads: “A person with whom the child resides a majority of the time shall notify every other person entitled to residential time or visitation with the child under a court order if the person intends to relocate.”
The rules, detailed in RCW § 26.09.440, further stipulate that a custodial parent who wishes to relocate out of the child’s school district must give at least 60 days’ notice to the other parent. The notice must be in writing and delivered via process server or another form of mailing requiring a return receipt. The courts will waive the 60-day notice only in emergency situations in which the custodial parent had very little notice that s/he had to move, such as military orders to relocate. Even urgent matters require that appropriate notice be provided to the other parent.
The non-custodial parent has 30 days from the receipt of notice to object to the relocation if s/he so chooses. If s/he does not object, the courts will likely approve the relocation.
The courts cannot stop the custodial parent from moving, but they can forbid the parent from relocating the child out of the school district if the other parent objects. It is important to note, however, that a non-custodial parent who files an objection must be prepared to have the child live with him/her full-time and prove to the judge why that would be in the child’s best interest.
The court will tend to err on the side of permitting the move. It presumes that the move is in the child’s best interest, and the objecting party will only prevent the move or gain custody if he or she provides evidence that the move will have negative ramifications for the child which outweigh both the benefits to the child and the benefits to the parent who wishes to relocate. Overcoming a presumption like this is likely to be very difficult, but it is not impossible. The court will weigh the evidence according to the following factors in making this determination:
The court will not consider, however, any contingent plans the parents have made in the event that the relocation is not allowed. In other words, it is not relevant if the parent asking for the relocation plans to surrender custody and move anyway if his or her petition for relocation is denied by the court.
If you and your ex have no parenting plan in place, then the aforementioned Washington laws do not apply and you are technically free to move. But be forewarned: If the other party files an action with the court, a Judge can order that you return to the area. Additionally, a move without appropriate notice can have a very negative effect on the court’s final custody determination. Before making plans to relocate, consult a local family law attorney for assistance.
If you are attempting to relocate with your child, or wish to contest a potential relocation, our attorneys can advise and represent you. We have successfully represented many clients in various types of relocation actions. Relocation is a complicated process with strict rules that both parties must comply with.
We invite you to contact our office for an appointment to discuss your rights and obligations in a relocation action: 509-624-1380.