children in a wagon

Relocation in Custody Matters

Parties to a custody action commonly seek to relocate with their child or children. Pennsylvania has set forth precise procedural requirements in these situations. That said, the threshold determination in these matters is whether the relocation triggers the aforementioned formal process at all.

Pennsylvania statutory law defines “relocation” in custody matters as “a change in a residence of the child which significantly impairs the ability of a non-relocating party to exercise custodial rights.” If the definition sounds vague to the reader, you would be correct.

Practically speaking, the imprecise nature of the definition is unavoidable. Every case is separate and distinct. As such, our legislature has defined relocation in such a way as to allow the judiciary to make its determinations on a case-by-case basis on the facts at hand.

To provide context, say, for example, a party to a custody action seeks to move ten minutes away from their current residence. The child or children would not be required to change schools, and the distance between the relocating and non-relocating party is negligible. In this situation, it is very unlikely that the relocating party would be required to initiate the previously noted formal procedure. In this scenario, the party seeking to relocate would simply advise the other custodial party of the move and its location.

For further context, say, for example, a party to a custody action seeks to move ten hours away from their current residence. By any interpretation of the statutory definition, this proposed change in residence would significantly impair the ability of the non-relocating party to exercise custodial rights. In this scenario, the relocating party must initiate the formal process by first filing what is called a “Notice of Proposed Relocation”, which, among other things, requires that notice be given to the non-relocating party, with further opportunity for that party to oppose (or not oppose) the change in residence with the child or children. Should the non-relocating party oppose the move, the matter would ultimately be scheduled for a hearing.

Lastly, there are those situations where the proposed relocation lies somewhere in between the two fairly obvious scenarios above. Say, for example, a party proposes to move forty-five minutes away from their previous residence, but remains in the same county? What about a party proposing to move thirty minutes away, but to a different county? The permutations are endless; thus, the subjective definition of “relocation”. Every case is distinct and is viewed accordingly by legal counsel and the Court. If you are seeking to relocate with a child or children subject to a Custody Order, please contact Pyfer Reese Straub Gray & Farhat for a consultation.

This correspondence/blog should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only and you are urged to consult a lawyer concerning your own situation and legal questions.

Posted in News on by Pyfer Reese.