What Happens to Your Child Custody Arrangement if You Move Across the Country?
Life goes on after your initial child custody arrangement is determined. A major life change, such as a new job opportunity, may lead you to move away from the Seattle-Tacoma area or from Washington entirely. In these situations, it is critical to understand Washington law as it relates to relocating with a child.
Under Washington law, if there is no existing custody order, the custodial parent is free to move. However, the parent cannot violate the state’s custodial interference laws — which protect non-custodial parents’ rights — nor can they violate the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Violating these laws can have serious consequences, including possible jail time, so it is wise to consult an attorney before relocating even if there is no formal custody order.
If a custody order exists, then Washington’s relocation law applies. It requires the custodial parent to provide the non-custodial parent with written notice at least 60 days before the move date. After receiving notice, the non-custodial parent has 30 days to file an objection with the court. The objection must explain why the move is not in the child’s best interests. Once this is filed, the judge will schedule a hearing where both parents present their cases.
The judge is required to consider several factors when deciding whether to allow the relocation, including:
- Whether disrupting the contact between the child and the custodial parent would be more detrimental to the child than disrupting contact between the child and the non-custodial parent
- Whether either parent violated the terms of the custody agreement more than twice in the last three years
- The age, developmental state and needs of the child, and the likely impact the relocation or prevention of relocation will have on the child’s physical, educational and emotional development
- The quality of life, resources and opportunities available to the child and to the relocating parent in the current and proposed locations
- The availability of alternative arrangements to foster and continue the child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent
- The financial impact and the logistics of the relocation
If no objection is filed, the judge can enter an order allowing the custodial parent to move away with the child.
Whether you are a custodial parent seeking to relocate or a non-custodial parent seeking to object to a relocation attempt, Bottimore & Associates, P.L.L.C. can help. Please call 253-272-5653 or contact us online to schedule a consultation at our Tacoma office.