Family Law: Relocation of Children

In 2000, a new statute was enacted in Washington which codifies each parties’ rights and responsibilities before, during and after a parent seeks to move away with a child. Under the new relocation statute, if the person with whom the child resides a majority of the time plans to move, that person must give notice to every person entitled to court ordered visitation time with the child. If the move is outside the child’s school district, the relocating person must give notice by personal service at least 60 days before the intended move. If 60 days notice is not possible due to the fact the relocating person could not have known sooner about the move, then the relocating person must give notice within 5 days after learning of the move. This notice must include an address at which service of process may be accomplished, a brief statement of the specific reasons for the intended relocation and notice to the non-relocating person that an objection to the intended relocation of the child or to the relocating person’s proposed revised residential schedule must be filed with the court and served on the relocating person within 30 days. Failure to give the required notice may be grounds for sanctions, including contempt of court. If the move is within the same school district, the relocating person must provide actual notice by any reasonable means. A person entitled to time with the child may not object to the latter, “minor relocation,” but may ask for a modification of the Parenting Plan to accommodate the move.

Relocation

The following is a summary only of the new statute. For the full text, please see RCW 26.09.405 to .550.

If the person with whom the child resides a majority of the time plans to move, that person shall give notice to every person entitled to court ordered time with the child.

If the move is outside the child’s school district, the relocating person must give notice by personal service or by mail requiring a return receipt. This notice must be at least 60 days before the intended move. If the relocating person could not have known about the move in time to give 60 days’ notice, that person must give notice within 5 days after learning of the move. The notice must contain the information required in RCW 26.09.440. See also form DR 07.0500 (Notice of Intended Relocation of A Child.)

If the move is within the same school district, the relocating person must provide actual notice by any reasonable means. A person entitled to time with the child may not object to the move but may ask for modification under RCW 26.09.260.

Notice may be delayed for 21 days if the relocating person is entering a domestic violence shelter or is moving to avoid a clear, immediate and unreasonable risk to health and safety.

If information is protected under a court order or the address confidentiality program, it may be withheld from the notice.

A relocating person may ask the court to waive any notice requirements that may put the health and safety of a person or a child at risk.

Failure to give the required notice may be grounds for sanctions, including contempt.

If no objection is filed within 30 days after service of the notice of intended relocation, the relocation will be permitted and the proposed revised residential schedule may be confirmed.

A person entitled to time with a child under a court order can file an objection to the child’s relocation whether or not he or she received proper notice.

An objection may be filed by using the mandatory pattern form WPF DR 07.0700, (Objection to Relocation/Motion for Modification of Custody Decree/parenting Plan/Residential Schedule (Relocation)). The objection must be served on all persons entitled to time with the child.

The relocating person shall not move the child during the time for objection unless: (a) the delayed notice provisions apply; or (b) a court order allows the move.

If the objecting person schedules a hearing for a date within 15 days of timely service of the objection, the relocating person shall not move the child before the hearing unless there is a clear, immediate and unreasonable risk to the health or safety of a person or a child.

The above is just a brief summary of what a custodial parent must know before relocating outside of a child’s current school district, neighborhood, or outside of the State of Washington. Our firm is familiar with the requirements which must be met before a custodial parent relocates and can help you modify your Parenting Plan to facilitate such a move or restrict a parent’s contemplated move.