How is the relocation of a custodial parent handled in Pennsylvania?

Divorced parents in Pennsylvania should understand the laws governing relocation and the criteria used to decide whether relocation is best for a child.

After a divorce, most parents in Lebanon are committed to securing the best living arrangement possible for their children. To this end, many parents weigh relocating to pursue career opportunities, live closer to extended family or obtain more stable living arrangements. However, as many parents know, Pennsylvania observes strict laws governing whether children can relocate with a custodial parent. It’s essential for parents to understand these laws and the process of requesting or objecting to a parental relocation.

Notifying the other parent

Under the Statutes of Pennsylvania, custodial parents must notify non-custodial parents of a proposed relocation at least 60 days prior to the relocation date. State law allows exceptions for custodial parents who learn of the relocation less than 60 days in advance and cannot reasonably delay it. These parents must give notice within 10 days of finding out about the move. A parent’s failure to observe these requirements may be taken into account if a court must later decide whether to approve the relocation.

In addition to specifying a date of relocation, the notice must provide the non-custodial parent with other relevant information about the move. This includes the address of the new residence, information about the school the child would attend, justification for the move and a proposed custody schedule. The notice should also advise the non-custodial parent that he or she must file any objections within 30 days.

Objections to the relocation

A non-custodial parent who does not support a proposed move has the right to seek a temporary or permanent order to block it. If a parent does so, a family law court must determine whether to approve the relocation. According to the Pennsylvania Code, if a non-custodial parent does not file an objection within 30 days, the move can proceed and will no longer be classified as a relocation.

Court hearing and ruling

Under the Statutes of Pennsylvania, if parents disagree about relocation, a family law court must decide whether to allow it. The parent seeking the relocation is tasked with proving that the change would serve the best interests of the child. The court may consider various factors to determine whether this is the case, including:

  • The impact that a move will have on the child’s development, given the child’s needs and age
  • The improvements in quality of living that a move would offer for the child and parent
  • Each parent’s reasons for seeking or opposing the relocation
  • Each parent’s tendency to support or impede the child’s relationship with the other parent
  • The ability of the child and non-custodial parent to maintain an ongoing relationship despite the move
  • The preferences of the child

The court may also weigh any other factors deemed relevant, such as a history of abuse on the part of one parent, to decide whether relocation is optimal for the child.

Modification of custody order

If the court approves the proposed relocation, or if both parents agree to this arrangement, the child custody orders must be formally modified. The court may take the relocating parent’s proposed arrangement into account when drafting the new custody order. The revised order also must specify how parents should go about requesting future modifications.

Legal advice can help

Avoiding missteps when giving notice of a pending relocation or objecting to one can be difficult, given the short timeframe of these legal proceedings. Consequently, custodial or non-custodial parents who are in this position should consider consulting with an attorney. An attorney may be able to help a person handle the appropriate paperwork and present his or her case more effectively.