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How Pennsylvania Courts Decide Requests to Relocate With Children

After a divorce, changes in circumstances may lead the parent with primary child custody to seek to move out of town or even out of state. In Pennsylvania, court approval is required for any proposed change in residence that would significantly limit the non-relocating parent’s ability to exercise custodial rights. Relocation requests are often contested. Courts must decide them based on the child’s best interests and also with a view to protecting parental rights.

The parent who initiates a custody relocation request must notify the other by certified mail prior to the 60th day before the proposed move would occur. This notice must include pertinent information about the intended relocation and how it would affect the custody and visitation schedule. The parent initiating the request must provide the non-relocating parent with a counter-affidavit form that can be used to object to the relocation. An objecting parent must file the counter-affidavit within 30 days after receiving the notice. The court will then hold a hearing on the request and on any needed change to the custody order.

The state’s child custody law requires a court to consider several factors in deciding on whether to permit relocation, including:

  • The child’s relationship with their parents, siblings, and other significant individuals
  • The age, developmental stage and needs of the child and the likely impact of the relocation on the child’s development
  • The likelihood of maintaining the relationship between the non-relocating parent and the child through appropriate custody arrangements
  • The child’s preference
  • If there is an established pattern of conduct by either parent to promote or hinder the relationship of the child and the other parent
  • If the relocation will improve the general quality of life for the parent requesting the relocation or the child
  • The motivations of each parent in requesting or objecting to the relocation
  • Any present or past abuse committed by a parent or household member and if there is a continued risk of injury to the child or another abused party

When reviewing a relocation request, the court must give “weighted consideration” to any factors that affect the child’s safety, such as dangers that could befall the child in the proposed new residence.

Note that the distance of the proposed relocation is not a factor specified by law, but it will be considered insofar as it relates to the ability of the non-relocating parent to maintain his or her relationship with the child. Generally, the greater the distance, the more that relationship may be strained. A move within the same county therefore is more likely to be given approval than one that will separate child and parent by hundreds or thousands of miles.

If you or your child’s other parent is considering relocating while a Pennsylvania child custody order is in effect, The Law Offices of Jennifer Courtney, P.C. in Yardley can help you protect your custody rights. To schedule a consultation, please call our office at 215.493.3360 or contact us online.

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