Throughout our lives, many circumstances can arise that require us to change locations or move to a different state. We may receive a job offer we can’t refuse, find it necessary to move closer to family for support, or need to change locations for health reasons.
While moving has many of its own challenges and complications, families rarely consider the potential legal challenges that can arise when a parent decides to move to a new location and wants to take his or her children with her. While this may not be a significant issue for nuclear families with married parents, it becomes much more complicated for divorced parents where one individual may be left behind.
Laws Governing the Movement of Children out of State in Tacoma
Determining what laws apply to your decision to move yourself and your child out of state depends on whether you have an existing parenting plan within Washington. A parenting plan is a court order that grants certain individuals custodial rights and other individuals visitation rights. It is sometimes also known as a custody order.
If you have a custody order in Washington, then Washington’s relocation law applies and must be considered when deciding whether to move. If you do not have a parenting plan, then no specific Washington law applies. But you must be considerate of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”) that governs what states have the right to make decisions about parental rights and children.
Washington’s Relocation Law
Under Washington law, if you have an existing parenting plan and that plan gives a third party (such as a former spouse or a grandparent) a right to visitation with your child, that third party must be given notice of your intent to move – before you move – and the opportunity to object to your move.
Notice of your intent to move must be provided at least sixty days before you actually intend to move. Washington law provides a specific form that you may use in providing notice. This form can be served on the individuals to whom notice is required, or you may mail the form to them as long as you do it in a manner that gives you a return receipt.
In some situations, it may be impossible to give a full sixty days’ notice. For example, you may get a very good job offer that requires you to start on short notice. Washington’s law provides for an exception to the sixty day rule in this circumstance.
If you cannot give sixty days notice, you may provide notice within five days after you actually know you are moving. This is as long as you can show that you could not reasonably have known about your move within 60 days before the move, and you cannot reasonably delay the move.
Objecting to Notice of a Move
After you send out your notice to the proper third parties, they will have thirty days to formally object to the notice in court. If they do not do so in a timely fashion, then you may move forward with your move.
If they choose to object, they will typically do so by either requesting to change the parenting plan to address the proposed move, or by seeking temporary relief in order to prevent the move from occurring. This will usually be done within the court where your divorce and custody proceedings took place, unless you have already changed jurisdiction at a prior time.
It is important to realize that the court cannot prevent a parent from moving. If a parent needs to move for a job or another circumstance, all the court can do is modify custody arrangements to deal with the move. This may happen by requiring the children to remain with the nonmoving parent, or by changing visitation arrangements to accommodate the move.
Courts take the issue of moving a child out of state very seriously, and parents on both side of the issue must be careful to act in strict accordance with Washington’s laws. The failure to give notice about a possible move or improperly restricting a parent’s access to a child in order to prevent a move, can both be met with severe sanctions in court. Failure to timely object to a proposed move could waive your ability to do so.
What If You Don’t Have a Parenting Plan?
As mentioned above, if you don’t currently have a parenting plan, your decisions about moving will be governed by the UCCJEA. The UCCJEA doesn’t govern how a parent must proceed with a move, but it does instruct on which court has jurisdiction over a child’s case after a move.
Under the UCCJEA, generally, for the first six months after a move, the court of jurisdiction is the court where the child resided before the move. So if you moved from Washington to Montana, for the first six months after that move, any proceedings related to the child would need to take place in Washington. Afterwards, they could take place in Montana if the necessary requirements are met.
The UCCJEA does provide exceptions for circumstances where a parent moves a child under unjust circumstances – such as moving a child without alerting the other parent or sneaking a child out of state. In these circumstances, the court in the new state where the child resides can sometimes refuse to take jurisdiction over the case and require the parent to conduct proceedings in the old state so as not to reward the improper move.
Washington Attorneys Advising You on How to Conduct a Drama Free Move
While laws surrounding moving with a child may seem burdensome at the time, following them is usually the least stressful and easiest way to proceed with a move. Trying to cut corners or minimize notice can often backfire and require more paperwork and time in court due to mistakes and improper procedures.
At Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S., our family law attorneys can help you determine what laws govern your potential move with a child and what steps you need to take in order to stay in compliance with those laws. For more information, contact us online or at (253) 272-2997.