Can I move out of the Bay Area with my child?

Parents in Sacramento who are divorced may find that their lives change in ways that are sometimes unexpected. A parent with custody of the child may wish to move with the child to another part of the Bay Area, California or even out-of-state. The reasons for relocation are many. For example, a parent may remarry, get a new job, want to be closer to family or want to live in an area with a better school district or a better cost of living. However, a relocation can affect both the custodial parent and the noncustodial parent, as well as the child. For this reason, California has laws regarding parental relocation and child custody.

Relocations must be in the child’s best interests

In California, either parent can move the court to modify an existing child custody and visitation order, including a modification due to a relocation. There are several factors must be met in order for a change to a child custody and visitation order to be modified. The parent seeking the modification must show that a significant change has occurred since the existing order was made that makes a modification necessary in order to meet the best interests of the child. Absent instances of abuse or neglect, it is important that both parents are able to see their child and have a meaningful relationship with their child.

Is mediation necessary?

Sometimes the court will require parents to try to mediate a change to an existing child custody and visitation order before seeking relief from the court. If changes can be agreed upon by the parents through mediation, the court will review the agreement and if appropriate will approve it. This makes the new agreement binding.

Either parent can seek to relocate or prevent relocation

A parental relocation may be one reason to modify a child custody order in certain circumstances. Sometimes a modification is also sought because the child’s needs have changed. It is important to note that either the custodial parent or the noncustodial parent can seek a modification of an existing child custody and visitation order, whether it is to have a relocation approved or to prevent a relocation.

Ultimately, child custody and visitation orders are legally binding, so any possible changes should be discussed with a family law attorney first. When a custodial parent wants to move with the child, the noncustodial parent may be concerned that they may lose time with their child. Ultimately, any child custody modifications must be made in a way that prioritizes the child’s best interests. An attorney can listen to a parent’s concerns regarding relocation and can advocate for the parent’s rights along with the child’s best interests.