In today’s world it is not uncommon for a divorced parent to move to a new residence, be it for a new job, to find more affordable housing, to join a new partner, or for another reason. However, such a move can potentially impact the rights and responsibilities of both parents under the parenting plan. For that reason, before making such a move you should consult with your Seattle family lawyer. They can help you comply with the process Washington has put in place. This relocation process needs to be followed any time a parent is moving the primary residence of the child outside of the current school district.
Washington Notice Requirement for Relocation
Be sure and see your Seattle family lawyer well before the planned move as you are required to give formal notice to the other parent at least 60 days in advance of the move. There is a special form that needs to be used (it is NOT just a matter of mentioning it in a phone call or email). Also be aware that it is up to the court to decide whether the move is going to be allowed, so start this relocation process BEFORE you are fully committed.
Does the Relocation Also Mean A New Parenting Plan?
If the move is such that the parenting plan needs to be modified, a proposed new parenting plan should also be submitted with the notice. A new custody arrangement may not be necessary if you are just relocating to the next school district over, but it probably is if you are moving much farther than that. Discuss with your attorney whether the new location will make a difference in terms of keeping to current transportation and activity schedules. For instance, if your spouse currently picks up the child after school to go to sports practice, that may not work when you are living 40 traffic congested miles away.
Objecting To The Relocation
In the state of Washington, once you have given the notice to the other parent, they have 30 days to file a formal objection with the court. If the objection is filed, then the relocation will be set for trial.
Motion For Temporary Relocation
At this point you may need to consider whether you can afford to wait until trial before relocating. If you are starting a new job, that may not be realistic. Fortunately, one option is to have your Seattle family lawyer file a motion to permit a temporary relocation pending trial. The court will probably permit the move at this time if it feels, after reviewing the facts of the case, that the relocation is likely to be approved after trial.
There is always the risk, however, that after trial the court (this may well be a different judge than heard the temporary motion) could require you to move back. On the other hand, the fact of the court having approved the temporary relocation puts pressure on the court to not change the result at trial without VERY good reason. Get advice from your Seattle family attorney as to the advisability under your circumstances of trying to do a temporary relocation.
At trial there is a presumption that the relocation will be allowed absent significant reason to not allow it, generally having to do with specific detriment to the child, over and above what would exist in a typical case. Also, if needed, your lawyer will ask the court to determine what modifications need to be made to the parenting plan because of the relocation.
Specific factors the court will also consider include (RCW 26.09.520):
- The relative strength, nature, quality, extent of involvement, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent, siblings, and other significant persons in the child’s life;
- Prior agreements of the parties;
- Whether disrupting the contact between the child and the person with whom the child resides a majority of the time would be more detrimental to the child than disrupting contact between the child and the person objecting to the relocation;
- Whether either parent or a person entitled to residential time with the child is subject to limitations under RCW 26.09.191;
- The reasons of each person for seeking or opposing the relocation and the good faith of each of the parties in requesting or opposing the relocation;
- The age, developmental stage, and needs of the child, and the likely impact the relocation or its prevention will have on the child’s physical, educational, and emotional development, taking into consideration any special needs of the child;
- The quality of life, resources, and opportunities available to the child and to the relocating party in the current and proposed geographic locations;
- The availability of alternative arrangements to foster and continue the child’s relationship with and access to the other parent;
- The alternatives to relocation and whether it is feasible and desirable for the other party to relocate also;
- The financial impact and logistics of the relocation or its prevention; and
- For a temporary order, the amount of time before a final decision can be made at trial.
Work with a Seattle Family Lawyer in Order to Ease the Stress of Relocation
Make sure to consult with your Seattle family lawyer well in advance of any planned relocation, especially if it is going to be outside of your child’s current school district. To schedule and appointment, we can be reached through the form on our website, or you can call us at 206-784-3049.