In Pennsylvania, a divorced custodial parent cannot move out of state without informing the other parent, who has the legal right to object and attempt to block the move.
We know you may want to move out of state for many reasons including a job opportunity, to be closer to family, or even just a fresh start. However, the other parent, even if they do not have custody, still has a right to be involved in the decision and possibly even block it. The courts are going to want to ensure that the move is not going to interfere with the non-custodial parent’s ability to be involved in the lives of their children.
Custodial parent’s legal duty in order to move out of state in PA
The custodial parent must serve the non-custodial parent and anyone else who has partial custody or visitation rights with official notice by sending a letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, 60 days before the move. If the custodial parent does not know 60 days before the move, the non-custodial parent must be informed within 10 days of the custodial parent finding out about the need to move. The letter must include:
- Expected relocation date
- Purpose of relocation
- New street address, mailing address, and home phone number
- Names and ages of everyone who will be living at the home with the children
- Names of the new school and school district
- Proposed adjusted visitation plans for the non-custodial parent
- Any other relevant information
The non-custodial parent (or other person with court-assigned custody or visitation rights) has 30 days to file an objection to block the move, after which he or she loses the right to block relocation.
Factors the court considers
The burden of proof is on the relocating parent to demonstrate that the move would be beneficial to the children, improving their quality of life or standard of living without significantly affecting their relationship with the non-custodial parent in a negative way. The non-custodial parent must present arguments demonstrating valid reasons why the custodial parent should not be permitted to take the children away.
The court will weigh the factors:
- The advantages of the move for the custodial parent and the children
- The seriousness and validity of the moving parent’s reasons for the move. For instance, not simply because the parent wants a change of scenery or a new start
- The seriousness and validity of the non-custodial parent’s objections
- The level of involvement of the non-custodial parent in the children’s lives – for instance, attending sporting events and school events regularly outside of visitation time vs. only seeing or talking to the children every other weekend
- The reasonableness of the new visitation arrangements, demonstrating no adverse effect on the relationship of the children with the non-custodial parent
Ultimately, while the court cannot stop a custodial parent from moving out of state, it can prevent him or her from taking the children. If the custodial parent still chooses to move, the custody of the children will be transferred to the other parent (or another responsible party, such as a grandparent).
If you are divorced and you or your ex is planning to move, it is critical to get help and guidance from a trusted expert in custody law. Contact us here at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C. to see how we can help you.