It’s hard enough when divorce separates a father from his child, even just part of the time. But if the mother wants to move to another town, state, or even country, that separation is suddenly magnified. Here’s what you need to know about your rights in California.

What Happens When a Mother Wants to Move Away with the Child?

In California, it’s not enough for the mother to simply tell the father she’s moving away with the child. California family law stipulates that any changes to the child’s living situation that affect custody or visitation (also known as parenting time) may need to request a court order to be allowed to do so. These types of cases are called relocation or move-away cases. A court order usually isn’t necessary if the mother is moving to a new home in the same area, as long as the move doesn’t interfere with the standing custody and visitation order.

How Can I Stop the Mother of My Child from Moving Away?

First, bring in a knowledgeable child custody and visitation attorney because these cases are complicated and benefit from professional experience. There are virtually no guarantees for this process. The court will look first and foremost at the child’s best interests and proceed from there.

The factors a judge will consider when determining whether or not it’s in the child’s best interests to have the mother move them away from the father include:

  • Custody order. The judge will look at the current custody order that specifies how the parents handle custody and visitation. They’ll also want to know if the custody order is being followed and if not, why not. If the mother has sole physical custody under a permanent order, there’s a good possibility the judge will agree to let her move unless the father can prove it’s not in the child’s best interests. If the parents have joint physical custody, it’s more likely that the judge would rule against the move unless the mother can prove it’s in the child’s best interests. If there isn’t a permanent custody order in place, the judge will decide based solely on the child’s best interests.
  • Suppose the parents can get along. The judge will want to know how the parents are doing, not as a couple, but as co-parents. That includes understanding if they frequently disagree and can’t resolve conflicts or insult each other in front of the child.
  • The relationships between the parents and the child. The judge will want to know how involved each parent is in the child’s life and the quality of the relationship between them.
  • How far away the mother wants to move. If the move will make it more difficult or expensive for the father to see the child, the judge will take that into consideration.
  • Why the mother wants to move, whether she’s moving to take advantage of a better job opportunity or to be closer to other family members
  • The wishes of the child. The judge may ask for their input if the child is deemed old or mature enough.
  • Advice from a counselor. Sometimes the judge will refer to a counselor as to their opinion of whether or not the child should be moved.

How Can I Prove that it’s in My Child’s Best Interests Not to Move Away from Me?

If the mother files with the court for permission to move the child, the onus is on the mother to prove why the move is in the best interest of the child.

To prove that, working with an experienced child custody attorney is beneficial because they’ll understand what the courts look for in these cases. Anything you can document in support of your position is valuable, such as how much time you spend with the child, if you’ve abided by the custody order that’s in place, if you have been able to communicate with the mother about various child-related topics (education, medical care, extracurricular activities, etc.), if you’ve provided a safe shelter when the child is with you, etc.

If the mother hasn’t cooperated with the custody order, it’s essential to document that too. Other possibilities include witnesses who can testify to the child’s relationship with you, such as family, friends, neighbors, teachers, religious leaders, or coaches.

Can I Request the Custody Order Be Changed?

If you’ve proven that it’s in the child’s best interests not to move, you can request a change in custody because of the other parent’s moving-away request. Just as when proving that it’s not in the child’s best interests to move away from their father, proving that the child is better off changing custody and staying in the current community is required before the judge will agree to change the custody order.

Several of the conditions described above can help prove that the custody order change is warranted. In addition, you need to prove that you have the means to care full-time for the child, whether financially or in terms of time commitment.

What Should I Do if the Mother of My Children Wants to Move?

Call Reel Fathers Rights at 909-323-7962 to request an initial consultation. We know that being involved in your child’s life is vitally important to you. We can walk through the details of your case–and every custody case is unique–to determine what steps are available and what the best outcomes could be. The sooner we start, the better.