Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Child Custody: Can You Move With the Kids to Get a Better Job or Find a Less Expensive Community?

The economy has caused many families to reconsider their current living situations. Record numbers of home foreclosures abound giving rise to the need to find new housing and, in some instances, different and less expensive communities in which to live and work.

When a custodial parent loses their job or must move, a companion issue may present itself. How far away can you move with the children?

The law in this area (commonly refered to "move away cases" )has evolved over the years. A century ago, the man was considered the head of the household and, in that role, was given free rein to pick up and move with his children wherever he pleased. To counter that, the courts typically awarded children to the mother under the 'tender years docterine': if the child(ren) were young, the courts would tyically award sole custody of the childern to the mother.

Much has changed since the early 20th century. Family systems regularly have both parents playing a significant role in parenting the children. In 1980, the California Legislature amended the Family Code to expressly declare it to be a policy of California to "assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents".

This law ,as well as the courts recognition of the psychological benifits of children having significant relationships with both mother and father, led courts to become more protective of the rights of a non-moving parent.

So, here we are today. Where does this area of law leave a parent that must relocate to live in a less expensive community or to find a new a job?

Courts today look at a number of factors in establishing how the custodial plan should play out with a move. The court must look at the child's interest in stability and continuity in the custodial relationship as well as practical considerations such as the distence of the move, the age of the child, the child's wishes assuming the child is sufficiently mature to have an informed opinion.

If the court feels that these parenting relations can be maintained, then the move would be allowed. However, if the court felt the move was too disruptive to the child's relationship to the non moving parent, the court may rule that the children should be in the custodial care of the non moving parent.

Consequently, courts have the broadest discretion and the courts orders are effectively not appealable since great deference is given to judicial discretion by the appellate courts.

If you are planning to move or are the parent facing a motion requesting that the other parent move away with the children, you and your childrens legal rights will be determined by the judge assigned to hear your case. Therefore, it is critical that in proceeding to court, you secure the best chance possible on a favorable outcome by having a skilled family law attorney represent you in this life changing legal matter.