If Relocation Impacts Your Parenting Plan, Contact a Seattle Custody Attorney

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 child custody attorney. 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.

Why You Should Speak with a Seattle Relocation Attorney

The laws pertaining to relocation are complicated and confusing for non-lawyers. An experienced Seattle relocation attorney can help you navigate this issue and get a result that is fair for you and your child. 

If you are the relocating parent, you need to remember that the current parenting plan is a legally binding agreement. If you fail to follow the parenting plan, you risk being found in contempt. Furthermore, you could jeopardize your case if you move without notice, especially if you want your child to move with you. A Seattle relocation attorney can help you make sure you send the proper notification and avoid violating your current parenting plan. 

If you are not the relocating parent, you have the right to object to the relocation or the new proposed parenting plan. However, you must file your objection within 30 days of receiving notice of the relocation. This is obviously an important decision, both in terms of your child’s interests and your rights as a parent. A Seattle relocation attorney can help you understand your options and then develop an effective legal strategy for responding to the request.

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 relocation attorney as to the advisability under your circumstances of trying to do a temporary relocation.

Relocation Trial

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.

Frequently Asked Questions About Relocating with a Child

I’m moving out of state to take a new job. What does this mean for my parenting plan?

The answer to this question somewhat depends on your current parenting plan and how far away you are moving (i.e. not just moving from Vancouver, WA to Portland, OR). Assuming that you currently have frequent parenting time with your child that would be difficult to accomplish from your new residence, your parenting plan will need significant modifications. Typically, a long-distance parenting plan entails having custody of your child during large blocks of time during summer and winter breaks, with little time during the school year. However, an experienced Seattle relocation attorney can help you modify the parenting plan in whatever way makes the most sense for you and your child. 

What is the likelihood that my child will be allowed to relocate with me?

You should speak with a Seattle relocation attorney before deciding to move forward with relocation. If the other parent agrees to the relocation, the process is much more simple. Your lawyer can provide guidance on approaching your relocation that will give you the best chance for success.  

However, if the other parent objects to the relocation, then the matter will be set for trial. Whether or not you can have your child move with you will depend heavily on the circumstances specific to your case. The court will give careful consideration to your child’s best interests and their relationship with the other parent. 

I’m moving but I don’t think it will have any impact on my parenting plan. Do I still need to send the notice of relocation? 

Under Washington law, you are obligated to provide notice to the other parent any time that you move. If you are moving within the same school district, you may provide notice by any “reasonable” means. The notice requirements are more stringent if you are moving outside of the school district. Ultimately, we recommend that you err on the side of caution and provide notice to the other parent even if you do not think it will impact your parenting plan. 

Work with a Seattle Divorce Services in Order to Ease the Stress of Relocation

Make sure to consult with your Seattle child custody attorney well in advance of any planned relocation, especially if it is going to be outside of your child’s current school district. To schedule an appointment, we can be reached through the form on our website, or you can call us at 206-784-3049.