custody visitation out-of-state moving COVID-19

After a divorce, parents may feel they and their child need a change of scenery. This is understandable; however, always make sure to inform the non-custodial parent if that change of scenery means taking a child across state lines.

Temporary Vacations

If this change is temporary, say to visit relatives or go on a vacation, non-custodial parents generally won’t mind, so long as it doesn’t interfere with any current custody orders or travel restrictions. Regardless, informing the non-custodial parent shows respect and allows you to obtain written consent should any future disputes arise.

Permanent Moves

Moving a child to a new state permanently is a different matter. Even if you have sole physical custody, there’s a possibility you could be charged with child kidnapping, especially if the non-custodial parent did not know about the move.

In California, a parent must give the non-custodial parent 45 days’ notice prior to a move. Should the non-custodial parent dispute the move, both parents will make their case in front of a judge for the best interest of the child. Factors that may be considered include:

  • The reason for the move;
  • Distance from the non-custodial parent; and
  • Impact on the well-being of the child.

Visitation In the Wake of COVID-19

If moving a child out-of-state after a divorce wasn’t complicated enough, when it comes to visitation and custody arrangements, there’s still considerations we must adhere to when dealing with the ramifications of COVID-19. Luckily for most parents, courts are no longer using COVID 19 as an excuse to keep non-custodial parents from exercising their visitation rights.

Unfortunately, that still may not stop some custodial parents from using the following excuses to attempt to deny a non-custodial parent visitation:

  • One parent works in healthcare, are constantly exposed to large groups of people, or have tested positive for the virus;
  • There are stay-at-home orders or regional lockdowns in place;
  • One parent disagrees with current mandates, such as wearing masks, washing hands or social distancing.
  • One parent seeks to move to, or currently lives in, a hot spot;
  • The parents live too far away from one another;
  • A child must travel on a plane, or there are travel bans or quarantines in place.

It may seem respectful to listen to, and acknowledge, some of these concerns, however if visitation is being denied for any of the above reasons, it’s important to seek legal advice and/or seek a court intervention immediately.

COVID-19 has made living hard on everyone, but no more so than on parents who want to share in their child’s lives. Just remember, whatever the situation or concerns may be, it is always best practice to talk to a lawyer about your specific case before making any travel arrangements or permanent moves.

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