In the aftermath of a divorce, there may be many reasons you want to relocate—a new job, closer proximity to family or friends, or just to start over with a change of scenery. But if there are minor children and you have physical custody, you need to be very careful when considering such a move.
Under Pennsylvania law, you must obtain court approval before you can relocate outside of the state, and even if you relocate inside Pennsylvania, if the distance between your new residence and the non-custodial parent would “significantly impair” that parent’s ability have meaningful access or custodial time with the child. You must also have the approval of the non-custodial spouse or any party with custodial rights to the child.
So what does it mean to “significantly impair” a non-custodial parent’s rights? The first assessment the court will typically make is the extent to which the move would change both the amount of time the non-custodial parent would have with the child, and the ease with which the non-custodial parent would have access to visitation. It’s important to understand that the Pennsylvania child custody laws do not establish any specific distance as a relocation—a move within the same county may (though rarely is) be found to constitute relocation. Conversely, under the right circumstances, a move of a few hundred miles may not qualify as relocation.
It’s also important to understand that these provisions apply whether or not there is a custody order in place. While a parent’s right to take a child out of the state is not as limited, in the absence of a custody order, a parent cannot relocate with a minor child in the absence of court approval and the approval of the other parent, even if no divorce proceeding has been filed.
At the office of Joanne E. Kleiner & Associates, we have more than 25 years of family law experience. We’ll help you stay focused on what matters. To schedule an appointment with an experienced Pennsylvania divorce attorney, contact our office online or call us at 215-886-1266.