California Relocation Laws


After a divorce is finalized between parents, it is not uncommon for one parent to move to another county or state. While the court force a parent to remain in California, a judge may have to change or modify a current custody order to serve the child’s needs. 

In summary, a custody order designates which parent the child will live with (physical custody) and which parent has the right to make decisions for the child (legal custody). Parents can have joint legal and physical custody, or one parent may have sole physical custody while both parents share joint legal custody. Although both parents may share physical custody, one parent may be considered the “custodial parent,” who has an advantage when it comes to relocation proceedings, also known as move-away cases. 

Custodial parents have the right to move with the child. However, if the move will affect the current custody and visitation orders, the parents must modify such orders. According to California law, if a parent plans to move away with the child for over 30 days, he/she must provide a written notice of the plan, so that both parties can reach a new custody and/or visitation agreement. If the nonmoving parent disagrees with the proposed move, he/she can file an objection in court and request a modification of the current order. 

The following are what the court considers when deciding move-away cases in California: 

  • Joint custody – If the parents share joint custody, showing a change in circumstances is not required to change the custody order. Rather, an evidentiary hearing will be held to create a new custody arrangement based on the child’s best interests. 

  • Sole custody – The custodial parent has a “presumptive right” to move with the child, which means that the other parent must prove that the proposed move is “detrimental” or harmful to the child and the custody order must be reevaluated. 

The court will consider the child’s age, the distance of the move, the child’s relationships with both parents, the ability for the child to maintain a stable and continuous relationship with both parents, and the reasons for the move. Regarding the last factor, unless there is evidence that the purpose of the move is to disrupt the relationship between the child and the other parent, the moving parent is not required to prove the reasoning behind the proposed move. 

If you are interested in relocating with your child or contesting a proposed move by the other parent, contact our Irvine legal team at The Neshanian Law Firm, Inc today. Schedule a confidential consultation! 

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