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Child Custody & Relocation Laws in the State of California


When parents get divorced or decide to separate, one parent will sometimes want to move away and relocate with the child. Although a judge can’t force one parent to remain in the state after their divorce, they can change custody orders to better serve the needs of the child.

The custodial parent can freely travel with the child and can even relocate with them in certain situations. However, the best interest of the child is always the most important aspect of a custody case. If relocating would negatively affect the child’s physical or emotional needs, a judge can alter the custody arraignment to better accommodate the needs of the child.

Custody Explained

Divorced parents have to come to an agreement about where their children will live and how visitation will be carried out. If the parents don’t agree on custody, the judge will create a custodial plan for them. Custody orders are intended to accommodate the unique needs of your family and designates which parent will have physical custody and when the other parent is allowed to have custodial time with the children. Sometimes parents share physical and legal custody, while other times one parent has sole physical custody despite both parents having joint legal custody.

As stated above, the custodial parent can change residences or move neighborhoods with their child if the relocation won’t disrupt the child’s rights or best interests. In California, parents have to give written notice of their plans to relocate with a child for more than 30 days. In order to allow time for the parents to discuss and work out a new custody or visitation agreement, a notice to relocate should be sent least 45 days before the proposed move. The parent who won’t be moving can file an objection to the proposed relocation and seek a custody modification from the court.

What Do Judges Consider During a Relocation Hearing?

A judge is not likely going to remove a child from a custodial parent just because a proposed move will be hard on the child. However, if the noncustodial parent can prove that relocating would be detrimental to the child’s best interests, a judge might decide to change custody. Judges look at the following factors to determine if changing custody orders is appropriate:

  • What the child’s needs are for continuity and stability
  • The distance between the proposed move and the child’s current residence
  • What kind of harm would be caused if custody changes
  • The relationship the child has with each parent
  • The parents’ ability to communicate with each other
  • If the move will harm the child’s relationship with the nonmoving parent
  • What reasons the custodial parent has for moving
  • How the child’s emotional, physical, and educational needs will be met after the move
  • If the child will have extended family relationships in the location they are moving to

Do you need help with a child relocation case? Contact our team of Irvine family law lawyers to set up your case consultation today.