Moving and relocating is a complicated process, especially when you are co-parenting. Though deciding to move often seems like a personal decision, that is not always the case when children are involved. The relocation of children whose parents are divorced or separated is frequently contentious. Because of this, Washington State Courts and the legislature have developed laws to deal with the issues involved. The Revised Code of Washington 29.06.405-916 contains the applicable Statutes for Washington State relocation.
Addressing Relocation in Your Parenting Plan
When there is no parenting plan in place between parents, the statutes generally do not apply. However, if you have a parenting plan in place, or if you are seeking temporary orders to establish a formal parenting plan, it is important to understand and comply with the laws and court rules that control relocation.
Some issues of relocation may already be addressed in your existing parenting plan. In this case, the parenting plan determines how the relocation will be handled. When the plan does not address moving, you and your co-parent will have to agree on how to deal with a proposed relocation. If an agreement can not be made, the final decisions will likely have to be made by a family court judge following a trial.
Giving Notice of Relocation and Handling Co-Parent Objections
If you are in the process of proposing or negotiating a parenting plan, it is important to consider the possibility of addressing limitations or ground rules for future relocation by either parent. It is always best to anticipate the future demands of a co-parenting family and address how to deal with those issues up-front in the parenting plan. If that is not done, the relocating parent must give the non-relocating parent notice of intent to relocate and provide them with an opportunity to object.
If a move is within the child’s existing school district the only requirement is to give actual notice of the move to the co-parent. Otherwise, a 60-day notice is required, including a 30-day period for the other parent to object to the move or details of the relocation. The responsive time allows both parties time to gather the necessary evidence to support their positions on moving.
Court Process for Resolving Washington State Relocation Disputes
If there is no objection to the relocation and the parties agree on how to proceed, Washington State relocation plans can be approved by the court without too much trouble. However, if an objection is raised, both parties must be prepared to present and defend their positions with the court.
Generally, the relocation cannot occur until after any objections have been resolved, either by agreement or by a ruling or order from the Court. There are some exceptions occasionally made for urgent situations. However, you should understand that your plans may be in limbo for some time while you wait for a final decision by the court, especially if your co-parent objects to your relocation. While a judge may be sympathetic to your desire to relocate, especially if you have a good offer waiting for you, ultimately they will decide the case based on what they determine to be in the best interest of your child(ren).
Factors Considered by the Judge in Washington State Relocation Cases
Having a well-thought-out relocation plan is important if you will be proposing moving. When making your plans, think about which course of action will be the least disruptive for your child and their relationship with their other parent. If you and the other parent share “substantially equal parenting time” (45% to 55%), then the judge will not automatically assume that the move should be allowed. Instead, the judge will consider whether the move is in the best interest of the child(ren).
If a parent objects to the move, the judge is required to consider the following factors when making a final decision:
- The strength, nature, quality, and extent of involvement with the parents, siblings, and other people of importance in the child’s life.
- Any prior agreements between the parties.
- Whether it would be more harmful for the child to lose contact with the parent who is moving or with the parent who is left behind.
- Whether either parent has parenting time restrictions due to domestic violence, sex crimes, or other offenses.
- The reasons why each parent seeks or opposes relocation.
- The age and needs of the child as well as what impact a move might have on the child’s development.
- The quality of life and resources available to the child in either location.
- The availability of ways to maintain a relationship with the left-behind parent.
- Any alternatives to relocation; and
- The financial impact and logistics of the move.
Benefits of Hiring a Family Law Attorney for Washington State Relocation Matters
The litigation process of a disputed relocation can be complex and the consequences of the outcome can often be profound. Enlisting the representation of a skilled family law attorney to assist in obtaining a relocation order can be very beneficial. If you try to handle it yourself, it is important that you become very familiar with the law addressing all the issues involved. Missing a small detail or deadline could negatively impact your ability to reach your goals.
If you decide that hiring an attorney would be the most beneficial for your case, consider calling Divorce Lawyers for Men in Bellevue. Our attorneys skillfully handle complex issues involving Washington State relocation and parenting plans.