By Jen Segura
First, what is a move-away order?
Typically, it is when one parent wishes to move far enough away from where they currently live that the move will substantially change the current parenting plan (i.e., visitation and maybe even custody). The types of move-aways that come to mind are always across the country, which is fair because those are the most difficult. But there can be a substantial change in visitation if one parent moves from San Diego to Los Angeles. While it may be less of a burden, it will certainly still cause stress on the relationship between co-parents and completely turn the current visitation upside down if the parents share a 50/50 schedule.
Second, how does one obtain permission to move away (and take the children with them?)
Years ago, my older brother had a daughter (28 years ago, to be precise). Her mother was originally from New York. We all lived in the Inland Empire at the time. After living in New York most of her life, her mother came to California and lived in San Diego for many years before meeting and dating my brother. Fast forward years later, and she moved to Rancho Cucamonga to live with my brother, and they had a daughter. About three years after they had her, they broke up. Her mother decided she wanted to move back to San Diego. While this sucked for my brother, at the time, the court had a standard rule that you could not move from the 7 surrounding counties where the baby was born. While that may sound promising, that goes back to my first example – even a few hours away can be a LARGE disruption. Her mother was able to move to San Diego (since it was, in fact, one of the 7 surrounding counties of San Bernardino County, where she was born). Well, she moved to Imperial Beach. About as far south as you can get in California without living in Mexico. This broke my brothers’ heart, but he made it work. They met in Temecula, and he spent lots of vacations from school with her, but it still wasn’t the same. A few years later – she asked to move to New York. This was SO MUCH WORSE! At the time, the whole “7 surrounding counties” law was still in place, so she was not legally allowed to go. Eventually, she wore my brother down with what a better life she could give their daughter if she could be back by family. He eventually let her go. Whether that was the right or wrong decision, we will never know. But it was his decision and not a decision imposed on him. Today, this would look a lot different. There are no rules or regulations on what a parent can or cannot do, it is all on a case-by-case basis. Each party must plead their case as to why they should take the kids or why they should stay here. It is a balance of interests. Specifically, the court looks at the following factors:
- The child’s interest in stability considering the current custody arrangement;
- The distance of the proposed move;
- The financial impact the move could have on both parents;
- The age of the child;
- The current relationship between the child and both parents;
- The co-parenting relationship between both parents;
- Depending on the age of the child, the child’s wishes;
- The availability of any special accommodations the child needs;
- The reasons for the proposed move; and
- Any other factors that the court deems relevant.
These cases are typically long, emotional, and traumatic for all involved. Each of the above factors is argued in detail by each side. Dirt is thrown to make the other parent look less worthy of winning the Judge’s discretion hopefully and show that THEY are, in fact, the better parent. It is a terrible story to watch unfold. As difficult as this conversation can be, it can be easier to stomach if it is happening between yourself and your co-parent in a voluntary process where you both agree that you come to a conclusion together, rather than begin a battle and whoever is the last one standing “wins.” Mediation can offer a peaceful process to walk through the factors above or even develop your own factors to discuss. It can be overwhelming to think of tackling such a large change, but if you find yourself thinking about a better life elsewhere, consider talking with your co-parent in a facilitated mediation session before heading off to court. You can save yourself thousands of dollars in legal fees and find solutions that will work for you both and not destroy the co-parenting relationship in the process.
Need assistance with a move-away, or is the other parent contemplating a move-away? Contact West Coast Family Mediation Center at (858) 736-2411 today!