The New Pennsylvania Relocation Statute in Custody Cases
We are an ever moving society. New jobs, the chance to move closer to family, new opportunities, ending relationships and starting new relationships. With the downward spiral of the economy, people are willing to move anywhere or do anything to find that newer and better job. Simply put, these are all reasons why we move. However, people need to be concerned about what these changes mean to their children and current custody arrangements.
Background on the Child Custody Act
In November 2010 the state of Pennsylvania passed a statute called the Child Custody Act which has a specific provision about relocation. This Act applies to all custody proceedings after January 24, 2011. Relocation means a change of residence for the child that would significantly impair the ability of a nonrelocating parent to exercise custodial rights. It expanded the former 3 factor test under the Gruber case. The Child Custody Act now has ten factors in determining relocation. This gives the court an expanded view of what relocation means not only to the child but also to those influencing the child’s life. This allows the court to have more discretion when deciding if the child should be allowed to relocate.
The 10 Factor Test for Relocation under the Child Custody Act
A recent Pennsylvania case, E.D. v. M.P., analyzed the 10 factor test for relocation. The factors include:
- The nature, quality, and extent of involvement of the child with both parties and also other people who are significant in the child’s life
- The age, developmental stage, and needs of the child that could impact the child’s physical, educational, and emotional development
- The ease of preserving the relationship between the child and nonrelocating party in terms of logistics and finances.
- The child’s preference, depending on the child’s age
- If the parties have a pattern of conduct that promotes or harms the relationship with the child and parties.
- If relocation will enhance the quality of life for the relocating party (including financial, educational, or emotional benefits)
- If relocation will enhance the quality of life for the child (including financial, educational, or emotional benefits)
- Motivations of each party in terms of the relocation
- Past or present abuse
- Other factors affecting the best interest of the child
Factor number ten shows any other information can be relevant for the court to determine the best interest of the child.
How the Relocation Section in the Statute Can Affect You
A parent who does not have a custody order does not have to worry as much about the relocating statute unless the other party is or will threaten to have a custody order made. It is potentially easier for a party to relocate in a primary/partial agreement because the court could modify the current visitation schedule to the needs of the parties. Shared custody of a child is a more difficult situation under the statute, especially when the relocating party is moving far away.
There are potential negative consequences for not following the statute when relocating. Under the relocation statute, the party intending to relocate must give everyone who has custody rights to the child at least 60 days notice before relocating, unless it is an emergency. If these guidelines are not followed and the court does not have the opportunity to complete this 10 fact analysis, it is possible that a court could force a child back to the nonrelocating party, or such actions could put a negative blemish on future custodial modifications.
If you or someone you know is thinking about relocating or want more information on the Child Custody Act, please contact our office. The above information is not meant to be used as legal advice for your particular situation but rather as an informational reference. It would be important for us to understand the facts of your individual custody arrangement before advising how this statute could affect you.