If you have already gone through a divorce in California, you know that divorce is controlled by state law. Likewise, if you are under a child custody order, this too is controlled by California law. But, unlike the divorce process, which can be completed in a few months, child custody issues continue until the child becomes an adult.
A lot can happen in the lives of the parents during that time. Work, family, education and other issues can require a parent to move to a new town — or even a new state. These “move-away” situations can create difficult legal issues.
Sole and joint custody
Most post-divorce child custody orders in California call for some type of joint custody. If one parent wishes to move away with the child, they must typically first get the other parent’s permission. If the other parent objects to the move, the parent who wishes to move must convince the court that the move is in the child’s best interest.
If the child custody order gives one parent permanent sole custody of the child, the burden of proof is on the other side in move-away disputes. The parent with sole custody is free to move away with the child unless the other parent can convince the court that the move is not in the child’s best interests.
After a move to a different state
Each state controls family law issues within its borders, so a move to a different state can raise complex issues of jurisdiction. For the most part, only one state can make custody decisions about a child, and other states must abide by those decisions in any legal action that crosses state lines.
Generally, the child’s “home” state controls child custody decisions. This means the child has been living in the state for at least six months, or had been living in the state before one parent took them out of the state. The home state is also one where the child has significant community connections.
A state can also make decisions about child custody if the child is living within its borders and will in danger of abuse or neglect if sent back to another state.
It’s important to note that child support orders work across state lines. A parent who is under a child support order must continue to make child support payments even when they no longer live in the same state as their child.
Because the legal issues can be tricky in these cases, it’s important for parents involved in move-away situations to seek out help from experienced family law attorneys.