Family Law and Parental Relocation in Divorce

Most courts in Washington state favor circumstances in which children of divorcing parents can maintain loving relationships with both parents. They also want parents to continue to be active participants in the lives of their children. However, the tasks of family law judges can become particularly challenging if the parent with primary child custody wants to relocate to a different area or another state.

The relocation of the parent and the child will not only deny the other parent of participating in the child’s life, but it will also remove the child from familiar surroundings such as the school, friends, extended family members, and more. This usually goes against the aim to act in the best interests of the child. However, if the parent’s request to take the child along when relocating is denied, he or she may still move away but leave the child with the other parent. Will this be in the child’s best interest if this arrangement will prevent in-person contact between the child and the relocating parent?

It is not uncommon for one parent to relocate after a divorce, and such a move can be motivated by a new job, remarriage or the desire to go back to a home state. In most such cases, the parent who stays behind would attempt to stop the child from being taken away. This is where the judge’s problems start because whatever is decided must serve the best interests of the child, and the court will consider several important factors before making a decision.

If a parent with primary physical custody wants to relocate, the other parent might have to petition the court to prevent such a move. He or she will likely have to prove to the court that the relocation will harm the child. However, the court might also place the burden on the move-away parent to show that the relocation will serve the child’s best interest. An experienced Washington family law attorney can assist either parent in his or her quest to remove the child from the familiar surroundings or to prevent such a move.

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