Moving your family is a stressful and complicated event even with an intact family. However, relocating can become even more difficult following a divorce when there is a custody order in place. As of January 24, 2011 Pennsylvania's new Child Custody Law went into effect and introduced new requirements with regard to a custodian's relocating.
First, what constitutes relocation? The statute defines "relocation" as a change in a residence of the child which significantly impairs the ability of a non-relocating party to exercise custodial rights. Therefore, relocation does not necessarily mean a move out of state or county. Even a move within the same county could be considered relocation if it impairs the ability of the other party to exercise his or her custodial rights.
So, what does a party that wishes to relocate have to do? First, the party seeking to relocate must provide notice to anyone who may have custodial rights to the child. This would include the natural parents and any other party that has been awarded custodial rights by the court. The notice must include the new address, school district and reasons for the relocation, among other things. In addition, this notice must be given at least 60 days prior to the relocation unless certain exceptions apply.
The non-relocating party then has 30 days to file an objection to the relocation. If no objections are filed, the court will presume that he or she has consented to the relocation and will not hear any further argument on the matter. The relocating party can then obtain court approval for the relocation and seek a modification of the custody order.
If the non-relocating party files the appropriate objection to the relocation, the court will conduct a hearing to determine whether or not the move is in the best interests of the child and will take testimony and evidence on the issue. Following the hearing, the Judge will determine whether or not the relocation is beneficial to the child and will either approve the move or deny the request.
If you are planning on relocating or are opposing another party's relocation, you should speak to an attorney before doing so. There are very specific procedural steps set forth in the statute that one must comply with in order to effectuate relocation. Our Pittsburgh law firm, Gusty A.E. Sunseri & Associates, will be able to guide you through the process and protect your custodial rights.