Pennsylvania, Child Custody, and Relocation: What to Know Before You Move

Posted by Laura Robbins, Esq. and Jennifer Braum, Esq. on August 12, 2012 

When a child is being raised by divorced or separated parents, the reality of the situation is that one of the parents may want to move while the child is a minor.  Pennsylvania’s Child Custody Law was modified in January 2011, and part of the new modifications directly deals with relocations involving minor children. This law now provides specific steps that the parent requesting the relocation must follow prior to relocating, when the relocation would substantially interfere with the other parent’s custodial rights. There are only two ways the relocation can occur:  each person with a custodial right to the child must agree to the proposed relocation, or the Court must approve the relocation.

                 Pennsylvania’s Child Custody Law requires that the parent desiring the relocation must inform every individual with a custody right to the child of the proposed relocation.  The law explains that this notice must be in writing and sent to each individual by certified mail, return receipt requested. In general, the notice must be given to each person with custodial rights at least 60 days in advance of the proposed move, with few exceptions. The notice must include a detailed list of information pertaining to the proposed new residence and school district, and also must include the date of the proposed relocation, detailed information on household members, why the relocation is desired, and a proposed custody order.    

                After receiving notice of the proposed relocation, the other parties can either agree or object to the proposed relocation. In order to object, the party must file an objection (called a ‘Counter-Affidavit’) with the Court within thirty days of receiving notice of the proposed relocation. If an objection is filed, a hearing will be held.  A party may object to the proposed relocation, the proposed revised custody schedule, or both. If an objection is not received within specific time limits, the other parties cannot object to the relocation in the future. Furthermore, even if objections are not filed, the party requesting relocation must still file additional paperwork with the Court before the relocation. It is also possible that the Court may decide to hold a hearing even if the other parties do not object. 

                When deciding to approve or reject a proposed relocation, the statute provides several factors that the Court will consider. These factors include, but are not limited to:  the child’s relationship with the relocating and non-relocating party, the likely impact of the relocation on the child, the reasons for the relocation, and whether the relocation will enhance the child’s quality of life. The list is not comprehensive, as the Court can consider any factor that affects the best interest of the child. If the Court ultimately approves the proposed relocation, the Court will either modify the existing custody order or create a custody order.

                In today’s society, a person may want to relocate for a number of reasons:  a new job or educational opportunity, to be closer to family, or to leave an abusive relationship. If you are subject to a child custody order or involved in a child custody case in Pennsylvania, you should be aware of these detailed requirements before deciding to relocate.  

This article should not be construed as providing specific legal advice and does not discuss all areas of the relocation statute.  

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