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Three Questions That Will Determine Whether You Can Move with Your Child


People decided to move for a variety of reasons. Some people may move for work. Others may move to be closer to family. Others may move for additional job training or schooling. While these opportunities may be new and exciting, when parents share custody of their children they cannot simply pack a truck and move. To help understand your rights, O’Brian & Associates has put together the 3 questions that will determine whether, and when, you can move with your child.

Is There a Parenting Plan in Place?

The first question a parent needs to ask is whether there is an existing parenting plan. If there is not a parenting plan, then either parent could potentially move out of state with the children at any time. Just because they can does not mean it is a good idea. One issue that is likely to cause headaches if overlooked, is the fact that Washington courts retain jurisdiction over the children for at least six months, even after the children leave the state. So, if one parent moves out of state, but the other parent remains, the parent remaining in Washington could go to a Washington court and ask the court to establish a parenting plan. If this happens, the parent who moves out of state could find themselves traveling back to Washington to go to court.

If, on the other hand, there is a custody order in place, this triggers a requirement for the parent who wants to relocate to notify the other parent. Usually, the relocating parent must provide no less than 60-days notice of their intent to relocate with the children. This notice will identify which children the parent intends to relocate with, explain the reason for desired relocation, and provide the new address where the parent and children will be living. After receiving this notice, the parent has 30 days to file an objection. If no objection is raised, the relocating parent is free to move. If an objection is raised, a hearing will be scheduled and a judge will decide whether the parent seeking to relocate will be allowed to move.

What is the Current Custody Schedule?

If a parenting plan has been entered, one parent will be deemed the “custodial parent” or “primary residential parent,” which means that parent has custody of the children a majority of the time. The custodial or primary residential parent may have the ability to simply provide the notice and relocate with the children, but the non-custodial or non-primary residential parent does not. If the non-custodial or non-primary parent wants to move with the children, they must first file a motion to modify the parenting plan to become the primary residential parent and then provide notice to the other parent of their desire to relocate.

One additional factor that must be considered, is how much custodial time each parent receives. If a move is going to alter the custody schedule, the relocating parent will need to file a motion with the family court to modify the custody schedule. The custody schedule is also important because the more custodial time the non-relocating parent has the more difficult it will be to accommodate the parenting plan. On the other hand, if the non-custodial parent has minimal custodial time of the children, it will be easier to relocate and still accommodate the custody schedule.

Where Does the Parent Want to Move?

The distance the relocating parent wants to move is also important. The closer the move the easier it will be to maintain the existing parenting plan. Additionally, if the custodial parent wants to move within the school district their children already attend all the parent need to do is provide “actual notice” to the other parent and the other parent cannot object to the move. This means a simple email providing the non-custodial parent with the pertinent information about the move is sufficient.

If the relocating parent wants to move outside the school district, they will need to provide the notice required by Washington law and, depending on how the move affects the custodial schedule, file a motion to modify the custody schedule.

Whether you want to move down the street or across the country, O’Brian & Associates can help. We have been proudly serving the families of the great State of Washington since 1986 and we have the knowledge and experience you need in your corner.