What happens in a relocation hearing?

Parents who want to move out of their Pennsylvania home with their child often do so to leave the painful past and welcome a fresh future. However, they must fulfill specific conditions that can lead to a relocation hearing before packing up their things and going away for good.

The state’s relocation laws qualify a change of residence not necessarily based on a precise distance but on how it can significantly impair the nonrelocating parent’s custodial rights.

Thus, the relocating parent must seek the court’s approval, or the other parent’s consent and anyone with custodial rights. Consent means notifying the other parent and those with custodial rights through certified mail 60 days before the intended move or ten days after the relocating parent knows of the plan.

If the other parent disapproves instead and files a timely counter-affidavit to object to the relocation, the court will hold an expedited hearing for which both parties must prepare.

The court weighs relocation factors

A relocation hearing determines if modifying the custody order to include the possible relocation is in the child’s best interests.

It is a chance for both parties to present good faith reasons to establish their positions. The relocating parent has the burden to demonstrate how the move will improve the child’s quality of life. On the other hand, the objecting parent must similarly show evidence and witnesses to prove how preventing the relocation serves the child’s welfare.

The judge thoroughly weighs both sides and observes wide discretion in considering relevant factors, such as:

  • What are the motivations of both parties to seek or oppose the move?
  • What are the child’s needs based on age and other developmental concerns?
  • What is the relationship (nature, quality, extent and duration) of the child with both parents and other significant members of the family (siblings and other nonrelocating individuals)?
  • How feasible are the arrangements (logistics and finances) to preserve the child’s relationships with both parents?
  • Is there a history of abuse or continued imminent dangers to the child?
  • Does the child have a preference?

This extensive list may still expand depending on the family’s unique circumstances. The court can either grant or deny the relocation request with the child. However, the judge cannot prevent the parent from moving alone. There will be necessary adjustments to the custody order when the child lives with the nonrelocating parent.

The child is always the priority

While job, housing or school opportunities may all warrant a relocation, the court still leans on retaining stability and security in the child’s environment, which may not be agreeable to both parents. So, they must work with their legal representatives to navigate a potential relocation hearing and how laws can work in their favor while protecting their child’s future.


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