Relocating With a Child After Divorce
Under Washington State law, both parents and anyone else granted visitation by the court are required to be informed if one parent plans to relocate with the child. If a child visitation rights holder, such as the other parent, grandparents, or a sibling, has visitation rights with the child, then the relocating parent must inform them when they plan to move.
Washington State law establishes this obligation because everyone involved in the child’s life should be alerted about the move in advance. Below, we discuss what divorced or separated parents must consider if they plan to relocate out of state.
Sending Notice of Relocation
RCW 26.09.440 states that the relocating party must send a notice of relocation to all parties at least 60 days ahead of the expected move. This requirement ensures that one parent doesn’t invade the other party’s right to see their child. The notice also gives the other parent the opportunity to object if they believe that the move is not in the child’s best interests.
The notice should include the new address, phone number, and a brief explanation of why the parent and the child plan to relocate. You also need to provide an updated mailing address that the non-custodial party can contact you through. The notice should also include the contact information for the child’s school or daycare.
Additionally, a proposed parenting plan must be submitted that outlines any new potential custody or visitation arrangement along with the notice of relocation. The notice should be filed with the same court that entered your divorce or parenting plan. You can file the response in a different county, but you must register the current parenting plan as a foreign order in that county and request a new case number for that county.
What If the Relocating Parent Fails to Give Notice?
When a relocating parent fails to give notice, they can face sanctions by the court, including contempt. If a parent relocates without giving proper notice, the court can take the following actions:
- Order the child to move back to their previous location or the other parent’s home
- Order the relocating parent to pay the other parent’s attorney’s fees and costs
- Find the relocating parenting in contempt and order jail time, fines, or other punishments
If a court finds a parent in contempt more than once in a three-year period, they can award the other parent custody.
Can a Parent Relocate If There Isn’t a Parenting Plan?
If there is no existing custody order or parenting plan regarding residential time or visitation, you are still required to follow the law if you plan to relocate.
The custodial parent can't violate any of Washington's laws that protect the rights of non-custodial parents, as well as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which is effective in every state and determines which states’ courts have jurisdiction if a parent disputes custody in more than one location.
Generally, if a child relocates out of state with a parent, the old state remains the child’s “home state” for six months after the move, as long as one parent still resides in that state. This means that all court actions during the first six months after the move must occur in the old state. If there is no parenting plan in place and the relocating parent moves out of Washington, but the other parent files a court case in the “home state,” then the relocating parent must respond to the action and return to the state of Washington to handle the matter.
It's a crime to take or hide a child from their other parent in order to prevent their access to the child or to move the child out of the state in which they live. If the custodial parent violates these laws, they can face jail time.
Experienced Representation for Child Relocation Cases Across State Lines
McKinley Irvin’s family law team has extensive experience navigating child relocation cases and complex family law matters. To gain a better understanding of all your legal rights and options, contact us for a consultation. To schedule a consultation, please call 206-397-0399 or contact us online.