Question: My ex and I are divorced, and we both currently live in Newtown, Bucks County. I have primary custody of our daughter. I am getting a new job in Doylestown this summer, and I want to move closer to my job. According to ranking reports, the school district in Doylestown (Central Bucks School District) is excellent and better than the one she is currently in (Council Rock School District). Though my ex-husband and I are cordial, I am not sure how he will feel about the move. Because it will not be that much further for him to drive, is it considered a relocation? I believe it is best for our daughter. If my ex-husband doesn’t agree to it, what are my options? Do we have to go to court?
Answer: The issue of relocation often comes up in PA custody cases. Even though you have primary custody, you may not be able to move without either the other parent’s consent or the Court’s approval. Although your new location will not be much further from where your ex currently lives, the Court may still consider your move a relocation.
There is no objective standard to determine when a move is considered a relocation. Pursuant to PA custody law, relocation is defined as “a change in a residence of the child which significantly impairs the ability of a nonrelocating party to exercise custodial rights.”
Thus, it boils down to whether the relocation affects the non-moving party’s custodial rights, such as less time with a child. Whether the Court grants a party’s relocation depends on the circumstances and facts of each case.
Procedures for Relocation in Bucks County Custody Cases
Because you want to relocate with your daughter, you must send a written notice of the relocation at least 60 days prior to the relocation. If your ex opposes the relocation, he must file a Counter-Affidavit Regarding Custody which was supplied with the written notice of intention to relocate. If he does not file this Counter-Affidavit, he may lose his opportunity to object. If he files the notice, a hearing will be scheduled before the Court.
Determining Relocation – Best Interests of the Child
Because you want to relocate, you must provide evidence to convince the Court that relocation is in the best interests of your daughter. The Court uses several factors in making the determination. See factors discussed in this PA custody blog.
It is important that you speak to a custody lawyer about your move. The last thing you want to do is move without your ex’s approval or the Court’s approval because it can negatively impact your custody rights.