WYOMISSING-READING-BERKS COUNTY CHILD CUSTODY RELOCATION ATTORNEY
Attorney Jana R. Barnett regularly represents clients involved in child custody disputes, including those who relocate and those who learn that the other parent will be relocating.
On January 24, 2011, a new custody law took effect which repealed the old statute and replaced it with a new statute. The new law has strict requirements which must be met whenever a person’s custody rights are significantly impaired by a change in the child’s residence. The requirements are imposed on both the party who proposes to relocate, as well as on the nonrelocating party. The requirements apply regardless of whether there is a custody order.
The general rule is that relocations cannot occur unless it is approved by either the court, or every person who has custody rights.
The party who wants to relocate must provide notices to each person with custody rights to the child. The notices must be served in a specified way, given at a specified time, and contain specified information.
The notice must be sent to the other parties by certified mail, return receipt requested.
The notice must be given at least 60 days before the date of the proposed relocation unless this is not possible because (1) the person did not know of the relocation in time to give this amount of notice, and (2) it was not possible to delay the relocation so that 60 days notice could be given. Where 60 days notice was not possible, notices must be given within 10 days after the person knows of the impending relocation.
The notice must contain as much of the following information as possible:
(i) The address of the intended new residence.
(ii) The mailing address, if not the same as the address of the intended new residence.
(iii) Names and ages of the individuals in the new residence, including individuals who intend to live in the new residence.
(iv) The home telephone number of the intended new residence, if available.
(v) The name of the new school district and school.
(vi) The date of the proposed relocation.
(vii) The reasons for the proposed relocation.
(viii) A proposal for a revised custody schedule.
(ix) Any other information which the party proposing the relocation deems appropriate.
(x) The counter-affidavit included in the statute which can be used to object to the proposed relocation and the modification of a custody order.
(xi) A warning that if the nonrelocating party does not file an objection to the proposed relocation with the court within 30 days after receipt of the notice, that party will not be able to object to the relocation.
If any of this information is not known when the notice is sent, the relocating party must inform other parties promptly when the individual becomes known.
The nonrelocating party has the opportunity to object to the relocation and/or modification of the custody order. If the nonrelocating party objects to either in accordance with the statute, the court must hold a hearing.
The objection must not only be filed with the court within 30 days of receipt of the proposed relocation notice, it also must be served on the other party by certified mail, return receipt requested. Where the relocating party complied with the statute, the nonrelocating party’s failure to object in a timely manner will be deemed to be consent to the relocation.
The hearing is required to be expedited and full. When deciding whether to approve a proposed relocation, the court must consider 10 factors, and must give more weight to those factors which affect the safety of the child. The 10 factors are:
(1) The nature, quality, extent of involvement and duration of the child’s relationship with the party proposing to relocate and with the nonrelocating party, siblings and other significant persons in the child’s life.
(2) The age, developmental stage, needs of the child and the likely impact the relocation will have on the child’s physical, educational and emotional development, taking into consideration any special needs of the child.
(3) The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the nonrelocating party and the child through suitable custody arrangements, considering the logistics and financial circumstances of the parties.
(4) The child’s preference, taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child.
(5) Whether there is an established pattern of conduct of either party to promote or thwart the relationship of the child and the other party.
(6) Whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for the party seeking the relocation, including, but not limited to, financial or emotional benefit or educational opportunity.
(7) Whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for the child, including, but not limited to, financial or emotional benefit or educational opportunity.
(8) The reasons and motivation of each party for seeking or opposing the relocation.
(9) The present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party’;s household and whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party.
(10) Any other factor affecting the best interest of the child.
The party wanting to relocate has the burden of establishing that the relocation will serve the best interest of the child.
If a party relocates with the child prior to a full expedited hearing, the court is prohibited from conferring any presumption in favor of the relocation.
To read statutes and related materials, please see “Related Links” on the right.
If you would like to speak with Attorney Jana R. Barnett about a child custody matter and learn how she can assist you, call her at 610-478-1860, or click here to send her an e-mail, and she will reply as quickly as possible.