Child Relocation in Washington State
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Today’s mobile society requires people to move for a variety of reasons, including job and educational opportunities or to live closer to family. The move can become complicated if it involves the relocation of a custodial parent. Relocations can pose a number of issues in child custody cases that can be difficult to resolve, especially if the parents have a shared custody arrangement. Moving a significant distance will affect the strength and quality of the relationships that each parent has with the children. It may also require substantial adjustments by everyone involved in the relationship. Washington State has specific laws in place that prevent one parent from simply moving a child subject to a parenting plan, in order to protect the rights of the other parent.
The Relocation Process in Washington
Before a custodial parent can move, state family law requires him or her to give notice of the proposed relocation to anyone entitled to visitation or residential time with the child. The notice should be sent at least 60 days prior to the move and include pertinent information, such as the new address and reasons for the relocation.
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The non-custodial parent and other interested parties have 30 days to challenge the move. During this 30-day objection period, the custodial parent is generally barred from moving, except under special circumstances or with a court order. The non-custodial parent cannot object to a move within the child’s current school district. If the non-custodial parent fails to file an objection during the 30-day period, the court will typically allow the relocation.
Generally, most relocations are done for valid reasons and will be approved by the court. As a result, those objecting to the move must prove that the reasons are invalid or the move will be detrimental to the child. When making its determination, a Washington court will consider factors, such as:
- The quality, nature and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent and other people in his or her life
- The age of the child and the impact that a move, or its prevention, will have on his or her educational, emotional or physical development
- The general quality of life to which the child will be exposed to in each location
- The reasons for the move as well as those for opposing it
- Whether each parent is acting in good faith
While family law says that the custodial parent has a presumptive right to move, failing to follow established guidelines can result in the court canceling the child relocation or forcing the custodial parent to move back.
Seek Legal Counsel for Relocations
Child relocation disputes can become complicated very quickly. As a result, interested parties should seek qualified legal advice before making any changes to a court approved parenting plan. An experienced family law attorney can explain the various legal options available. Engaging the services of a skilled lawyer will ensure that everyone’s rights are fully protected while seeking the best interests of the children.