If you are considering relocating with your child or have received notification of a proposed relocation from the other parent of your child, you need to know what to expect, what your rights and options are, and how to best proceed to protect the best interests of yourself and your children.
Washington law has a specific process and set of statutes that govern issues related to relocation with a child, including each party’s rights and responsibilities. This is also known as the Relocation Act (RCW 26.09.405-560).
*Proposing Relocation with Children:
For many different reasons, a parent may decide to move and relocate their child(ren) in the process of doing so. It may have to do with a job re-location or promotion, or it may be related to a divorce or separation and subsequent desire to move closer to extended family. For any reason, when the primary residential parent decides to move and relocate the children, the other parent has a right to be given notice of the proposed relocation and an opportunity to object. This is a legal requirement, regardless of whether you may believe the other parent is in agreement.
*Process of Notice and Objection:
If you are the primary residential parent and are intending to move and relocate the child(ren), you must give the other parent at least a 60 day notice. If you are given less than a 60 day notice of your move, for some unforeseen reason, you are required to give notice to the other parent within 5 days of becoming aware of it.
If your move is a far enough distance that it will disrupt the existing parenting plan, you must also file a proposed new parenting plan to replace the existing one.
The other parent has 30 days to file an objection with the court. The court clerk then sets a trial date, which could be 3-4 months out. There may be a preliminary hearing. If the other parent does not file an objection within 30 days, the relocation will be permitted. If they do file a timely objection, the primary residential parent may not relocate the children until there is a hearing held on the objection.
If the move is within the child’s current school district or if there is not yet any Parenting Plan or child custody court orders, the Relocation Act does not apply. (RCW 23.09.405)
*Legal Presumption and Opposition:
There is a presumption that a relocating primary residential (custodial) parent will be permitted to relocate the children unless the objecting parent can present evidence that outweighs this presumption.
The objecting parent must demonstrate that the detrimental effect of the relocation overcomes the benefit of the change to the child and the relocating person, based on these eleven statutory factors (RCW 26.09.520). The factors listed are not weighted and no inference is to be drawn from the order in which they are listed.
This process can be emotionally charged, complicated, and extremely stressful. Whether you are proposing relocation or objecting to a relocation proposal, you will need to work closely with a knowledgeable family law attorney who will help you fight for the best interest of yourself and your child(ren).
Decisions you make early on in this process can strongly affect the outcome of your case, making it vital that you involve us as soon as possible. Our family law attorneys are experienced and well-equipped to help navigate your unique situation.
*Case Summary Example:
The following is a brief summary of one of our recent family law cases pertaining to relocation:
- Description: Our client is a dedicated father who came to us after being served with a relocation notification from the other parent. The client was faced with having his child move to the other side of the state, taken out of his school, and away from regular time with his father. After thorough preparation in presenting our client’s case and after arguments and briefing of the issues, we were able to obtain a ruling from the court that our client would be better suited as the primary residential parent. The other parent’s relocation was denied. This was followed by establishing child support for our client from the other parent, given his new status as the primary parent.
- Outcome: Relocation was denied and our client became the primary residential parent. We were able to achieve the result that was in the best interest of the child and our client.