Pack up the van, strap the kids in their car seats, forward the mail and let’s move! But wait, not so fast. If you are a parent or caregiver in the state of Pennsylvania, are the primary caregiver, or the one with whom the children spend most of their time, and you are not living in the same home as a co-parent, you cannot simply pull up stakes, send the other parent a postcard and relocate. Whether you are moving across county lines, state lines, to the other side of the country or around the world, you must follow Pennsylvania’s relocation law, which applies whether you have a Custody Order from the Courts…or not. Even if you have never been to court and never filed for custody, the Relocation law could apply to your move. The law is one of Pennsylvania’s more complicated Family Law statutes and it is important to discuss how to proceed with your attorney. When speaking to your attorney, a few things to consider are:
1. Is your move really a relocation? Are you moving “just over the bridge,” only affecting the other parent’s commute by five minutes? Or will suddenly the other party be separated from their child by a multi-hour drive or a plane ride.
2. Why do you want to move? The charge of the Courts is to determine whether or not your relocation is in the best interest of the child. Your Judge will want to hear all about the area to which you want to move, the schools and doctors your child will go to, and why your proposed new life will be beneficial for your child. Many people move to be closer to supportive family or for a better job. The Court wants to hear about those wonderful supportive parents in New York, or your incredible promotion in Atlanta.
3. When are you planning to move? The Pennsylvania Relocation statute requires relocating parties to notify the other party and the Courts based on a very specific timeline. The sooner you talk to your attorney and file the proper documentation for your move, the better off you will be and the more chance you will have at a successful bid for relocation.
Perhaps you are reading this right now and thinking, whoops, I already moved, what do I do? Don’t panic. The most important thing to do right now is talk to your attorney about filing the necessary relocation documentation. While the court filings are geared towards the party who wants to relocate, they can be adapted for the party who already has relocated. The worst thing to do right now is to ignore the law. This could a recipe for an unwanted and disruptive move back to your home county by order of the court.
All of these rules may seem daunting and it may feel like you will never be able to move. Don’t despair! While not every parent or caregiver who comes before the Courts in a relocation case will be granted permission to move, with a good attorney on your side and supportive reasons for the move that focus on what is best for your child, you have a fighting chance to make the move of your dreams!