Child Custody Move-Aways in California
Here in Santa Rosa, California. and indeed in family law in general, one of the most hotly debated subjects in divorces is that of child custody “move-aways”, where one parent wants to move far away (usually different states or hundreds of miles away) from the other parent. The key issue addressed by trial Courts in California looked at challenging the necessity of the custodial parents choice to move away. Initially the trial courts upheld challenging the necessity of the custodial parent’s move, and often denied custody if the grounds for the move were not compelling. The Appeals Court however found that the trial court had erred in grounding the Court’s decisions in “necessity”, and subsequently overruled the lower Court’s decision. The Higher Court precedent now establishes that the Court’s ruling in such matters must proceed with the presumption that either Custodial Party has the inherent right to change the residence of the children, and that a mother or father need not bear the burden of establishing justification or necessity for the move . The Court now looks to a different standard to decide the matter.
The Supreme Court of California has now established that when deciding such a case, it must be based on the legal standard of “best interests of the child”. Some of the factors courts will consider include, the child’s relationship with each parent, the parents’ ability to provide for the child (including love, affection, food, shelter, clothing), whether the child lives in a stable environment and for how long, the permanence of the custodial home, the moral fitness of the parents, the mental and physical health of each parent, the child’s preference if appropriate, and each parent’s willingness and ability to facilitate the child’s relationship with the noncustodial parent, among other factors.
It is helpful for divorcing couples in Sonoma County and parents who are contemplating “move aways” to consider this “best interest of the child” standard, and look to the the spirit of the doctrine that will only weigh where it is the child will flourish the most, with all these aforementioned considerations weighed. Its a tough call any way you slice it, and everyone agrees that if parents can if at all possible remain within the same school district or county, it is optimal for the children because they can have abundant and continued contact with both parents. However in today’s trying economic circumstances, many parents are compelled to move away after a divorce for many legitimate reasons.