Family Law Relocation Cases

Relocation cases are often the most emotionally difficult cases in family law.

Relocation CasesIf you are seeking to relocate with your child (ren) I can advise and represent you to ensure that your intended relocation is processed according to the law.

If you wish to prevent the relocation of your child(ren), I can also assist you in asking the court to prevent the relocation of your child(ren), or obtaining an alternative residential schedule with your child(ren), if the other parent is allowed to move with them.

Relocation cases often involve child custody disputes, and ultimately can become the equivalent of a child custody modification case.

The Washington Relocation Act requires that a person with whom the children resides the majority of the time shall notify every other person entitled to visitation with the child of his or her intent to relocate the children. “Relocate” is defined as a change in principal residence either permanent or for a protracted period.

The Relocation Statute applies to all parenting plans, specifies the terms and conditions for the advance notice required to be given to the non-relocating parent, specifies the form and conditions of an objection to relocation and the consequences of a failure to object, provides for temporary orders regarding relocation, specifies the burden of proof (i.e. presumption) regarding relocation and lists the factors by which the decision is made by the court.

Notice of Relocation

The person intending to relocate must give notice by personal service or certified mail, return receipt requested, of his or her intention to relocate the child(ren). The notice must be given 60 days prior to the intended relocation. If the person intending to relocate did not know and could not reasonably have known of the relocation plans, the 60 days may be shortened, so long as the locating person gives five days’ notice from the date that the information became known. If you obtain new employment which begins in a week, your notice can be less than 60 days but only if you give the notice within five days of the date in which you obtained the new job.

The notice that must be given is specific and includes mandatory language in a Notice of Intended Relocation. If you intend to relocate within the same school district, you still must give the notice but it does not have to be as formal.

The law provides for certain exceptions if you are entering a domestic violence shelter, are a participant in the address confidentiality program, or if you are intending to relocate the child to avoid a clear, immediate, and unreasonable risk to the health and safety of you or the child.

Failure to give notice is grounds for contempt.

If you intend to relocate the child(ren) and you have primary residential care, you must not only give the notice but you must provide a revised parenting plan setting forth your plans for the other parent’s time with the child in light of the relocation.

It is legally unacceptable to relocate children without advance notice to the other parent.  Sanctions apply to any failure to give advance notice.

One of the remedies available to the court for failure to provide notice is an order for the return of the child (ren). The consequences to the relocating party would be devastating if the court found they had acted in bad faith.

Contents of the Notice

The following information must be provided as soon as it is available.

  • The new address and phone number, to the extent known
  • The new school and daycare
  • The intended date of the relocation
  • A proposal for a new parenting plan, if needed

Objections to Relocation

This is a key provision because it defines exactly what must be done to oppose a relocation, the timeframe for the objection and the consequences of a failure to timely object.

The objecting party must file and serve within 30 days of notice of a relocation, an objection to relocation and a petition for a major modification of the parenting plan and a motion for temporary orders restraining the relocation.

Failure to properly and timely object without good cause will forever terminate the non-relocating party’s right to object to the relocation itself.  The parties may then follow the proposed parenting plan of the relocating parent and have it entered as the new permanent parenting plan.

A person who intends to relocate the child cannot move the principal residence of the child during the 30 day period of time without a court order. If you intend to relocate before the 30 days is up, you must obtain a court order to do so. If you are the objecting parent, you must schedule a court hearing within 15 days of serving the objection to relocation.

To get your questions answered about Relocation call Kathy McCann at 360-694-9525