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Navigating Pennsylvania’s child custody relocation rules

Whether out of necessity to take a new job or simply based on a desire to move, there may come a time when a custodial parent wants to relocate with the child. However, Pennsylvania law prevents a parent from moving without the court’s authorization if the move will impact the custodial rights of the non-custodial parent.

More than distance matters

When considering a proposed relocation petition, the court considers more than just the distance of the move. Pennsylvania law defines relocation as “a change in a residence of the child which significantly impairs the ability of a nonrelocating party to exercise custodial rights”. For instance, a move only an hour away could still significantly interfere with custody arrangements, while the same move could not impact the custodial schedule depending on the frequency of exchanges. In addition to basic visitation time, courts review how the move will affect the noncustodial parent’s ability to be fully involved in the child’s life including attending doctor’s appointments and meeting with teachers.

Proper notification

A parent looking to relocate needs to alert every other individual with custodial rights of their intent to relocate. The custodial parent needs to send the notice in writing via certified mail with return receipt requested at least 60 days before the intended moving date. The Pennsylvania courts require the written notice to contain detailed information about the proposed relocation. Required elements include:

Objection and approval

As mentioned, the noncustodial parent may file an objection. If the noncustodial parent does not consent to the move, both parents must attend a hearing to present evidence of his or her position. Much like when the determining the original custody arrangement, the parent wishing to relocate must prove to the court that the proposed relocation will serve the best interest of the child.

Both the parent wishing to make the move or the parent left behind should fully understand the specific requirements in place to legally relocate with a minor child. The attorneys at Purdy Law Office would be happy to discuss the process and likelihood of relocation.

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