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What Is the Difference Between Moving and Relocation in Pennsylvania Child Custody Cases?

Sept. 4, 2020

Many parents dream of moving out of state and starting a new life after divorce, but they actually end up staying in Pennsylvania indefinitely for their children’s sake. Not wanting to make their children adjust to a new school and start over from zero finding new friends is only part of the motivation for staying; moving far away with the children would disrupt their relationship with their other parent, your ex-spouse. If you relocate, you must notify your ex-spouse in advance, so that you can modify your parenting plan accordingly. The family law attorneys at Iwanyshyn & Associates in Greater Pittsburgh if you or your ex-spouse is planning to relocate.

What Is Relocation and How Does It Affect Parenting Plans?

The family courts have a policy of not micromanaging parents’ lives after divorce. As long as you abide by the terms of your parenting plan (which is quite detailed), you are free to change your relationship status, your job, or your residence, within reason. If you move far enough away that it makes your current parenting plan untenable, it is a relocation. The law does not specify a number of miles that marks the difference between a relocation and a regular move, but these are some characteristics of a relocation:

  • After the move, it will take more than an hour for the children to travel by car from one parent’s house to the other

  • Because of the distance, it will be impractical for both parents to attend special events at the child’s school or the child’s doctor’s appointments

If you want to relocate, you must notify your ex-spouse in writing, and your ex has an opportunity to challenge the move. Most of the time, the court will not stop you from moving, especially if the motivation for the move is to help you provide financial stability for your children, such as if you are moving to take a better-paying job or to be closer to your extended family so you can rely on them for childcare instead of paying babysitters.

What to Do If You Are Moving a Medium Distance Away

What do you do if you are not moving out of state, but your new house is not just down the street from your old house? For example, what happens if you are moving to the other side of the county, and the drive from your new house to your ex’s house only takes 30 minutes on a Sunday evening, but it takes more than an hour during afternoon rush hour? You should notify your ex-spouse in writing (by postal mail or email) just to be safe; the mere existence of the written notice does not mean that it is a relocation, and the court cannot penalize you for giving notice, but it can penalize you for failing to give notice.

Iwanyshyn & Associates Helps Resolve Conflicts About Relocation

Communication with your ex-spouse is almost always the best policy when you are co-parenting children, but you might need the help of a family law attorney. Contact Iwanyshyn & Associates in Greater Pittsburgh & Western PA for help with parenting plans.