Hammering out child custody arrangements during your divorce was difficult enough, but if you now need to relocate, it can make matters even more complicated. WA courts expect and encourage both parents to remain active in their children’s lives – even when they are divorced from one another. As such, many – if not most – divorce decrees that involve shared children include terms regarding the geographical area in which the primary custodial parent must reside (a domicile restriction). If you face such a restriction, you must petition the court for a child custody modification prior to relocating (conversely, if your ex plans on moving away with your children and you hope to stop the relocation, you will need to look to the court). Obtaining a modification for relocation or attempting to thwart such an effort is often complicated, but a skilled relocation lawyer in Bellevue can help you find the best path forward.
When Both Parents Are in Agreement About Relocation
If one of you needs to relocate and the other parent assents to the plans, you will not need to involve the court. It is, however, in your best interest to file an executed written agreement with the court – to help prevent any problems that could arise if your ex chooses to deny the agreement and to accuse you of breaking the child custody terms of your divorce. WA courts only enforce domicile restrictions when a parent files a motion for enforcement in complaint of a violation, and if your ex-spouse changes his or her mind at some point, you could find yourself on the wrong end of such a complaint.
If Your Ex Objects to Your Relocation
If you are the parent who is preparing to relocate and your ex objects to the move, you’ll either need to find a way to reach a mutually acceptable decision or take the matter up with the court via a motion to modify. In its decision-making capacity, the court will take all of the following into consideration:
- Your Motivation for Moving – The court will carefully consider your reason for making the move. The court is looking for good faith motivations, such as a career advancement and, thus, improved financial benefits for your children; better educational opportunities for your children; or anything else that would directly benefit your children. Conversely, if you are attempting to stop your ex from moving away with your children, it’s important to understand that the court does not look favorably on moves that appear to be predicated in any manner on parental alienation.
- The Level of Disruption for the Noncustodial Parent – The court will carefully consider how your proposed move will affect the parent who is left behind. You will need to demonstrate how visitation with your children’s other parent will be maintained, and you may be responsible for any travel expenses involved. The court will be looking for solutions that specifically address the unique situation at hand. The court will also examine the noncustodial parent’s current visitation record with your shared children, and if he or she has exhibited consistent absences, this will likely not help his or her cause.
- The Effect on Relationships with Other Family Members – The court recognizes how important relationships with members of both sides of a child’s extended family can be and will calculate your proposed move’s effect on these relationships.
- Your Children’s Wishes – Depending upon your children’s ages, the court may inquire about their wishes regarding the move.
- Other Factors Deemed Relevant by the Court – The court can delve into any issue related to your proposed move that it finds relevant. Ultimately, the court is always guided by the best interests of the children involved and will pursue whatever avenues it finds helpful.
If the judge involved in your case ultimately determines that your move is in the best interest of your children and that it won’t deprive their other parent of his or her rights, your petition for relocation will very likely be granted.
Work Closely with an Experienced Relocation Lawyer in Bellevue, WA
If life has intervened, as life often does, and you need to relocate with your children post-divorce, you’ll likely need a relocation modification. While this can be a tricky process, a resourceful Bellevue relocation lawyer at Aberdeen Family Law are adept at helping clients like you conquer the obstacles to relocation – while ensuring their children’s best interests are protected. To learn more, please don’t hesitate to contact or call us at 206-790-6430 today.