People change, jobs change, environments change. When you have children, these changes can become complicated and stressful, especially if it means moving a child out of state. Whether you have custody or guardianship over a child, if another parent or family member is still in the picture, moving with a child can become complicated, especially if one fails to adhere to court agreements.

Below are a few things to know before deciding to move a child out of state.

Custody vs. Guardianship

Custody is when someone has full (or shared) responsibility over a child. Sole custody gives the bulk of the responsibility to one parent (and visitation to another) while joint custody gives responsibility and shared living arrangements to both parents.

Guardianship, meanwhile, grants responsibility of a child over to a non-biological caretaker.

This means the biological parents may still be in the picture but have been deemed unable to provide a healthy life for the child.

Relocation as a Primary Custodial Parent

Whether moving for a job, a change of scenery, or a better education, the primary custodian (aka the parent for which the child lives the most) should review the custody arrangement before making any final decisions.

If the primary custodian is moving outside of a court-approved radius, they must provide the court and the non-custodial parent written notice about their decision 45 days prior to the move. This gives the secondary custodian time to contest it.

Parents with sole custody usually have a presumptive right to move out of state, however, a parent with joint custody who wants to move a child out of state must file a move-away order.

Factors a judge will consider during a move-away hearing include:

  • The distance of the move
  • The emotional, environmental, educational, and physical needs of the child
  • The child’s relationship with the parents
  • Whether there’s a support system in place in the new location

If granted, the move-away order would force the modification of the original custody arrangement, which may not always go in favor of the primary custodian.

Relocation as a Guardian

Unlike custody, guardianship is much more involved when choosing to move a ward out of state. In California, the guardian must fill out the following forms and submit them to the court 45 days prior to moving:

  • Petition to Fix Residence Outside of the State of California (Form GC-085)
  • Notice of Hearing – Guardianship or Conservatorship (Form GC-020)
  • Order Fixing Residence Outside of the State of California (Form GC-090)

These forms must also be served to all interested parties, including the biological parents, within 15 days of the move. Should an interested party object, a hearing will decide if relocation is in the best interest of the child.

If the move is granted, the guardian will need to file for guardianship in the new state and relinquish their guardianship in the old state.

If this all seems overwhelming, contact a family lawyer who can help mitigate the stress.

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