Just when you thought your post-divorce California life was settling into some kind of normalcy, your ex-spouse announced that (s)he just got a big promotion at work that means (s)he must move out of state. Naturally (s)he intends to take the kids with him or her. Now what?
The answer to that question depends on the following three factors:
- Which type of custody (s)he has
- Whether or not you object to the move
- Whether or not the two of you can come to a new agreement with regard to visitation
Sole versus joint physical custody
If your ex-spouse has permanent sole physical custody of your children, also called primary physical custody, the only way you can stop the move is by going to court and presenting compelling evidence that this move will harm your children in some substantial way. If the two of you have joint physical custody of the children, however, then if you object to the move the burden of proof shifts to him or her to convince the judge that this move is in the best interests of the children as well as his or her own best interests.
New parenting plan
Your ex-spouse needs judicial permission to move your kids out of state even if you do not object to it. If this is the case, the two of you should write a new parenting plan that takes into account how far away you now will be living from each other and makes provision for your substantial continued involvement in your children’s lives.
For instance, rather than just seeing your children on alternating holidays, now maybe you can have them for the entire week surrounding the alternating holidays. Another idea is for the children to stay with you during most if not all of their summer vacations. You also may wish to look into “virtual visitation” apps that you and your children can use to basically video conference each other via computer or phone.
Whatever new parenting plan you and your ex-spouse agree to, the judge must approve it before your ex-spouse can relocate with the children.
You may not realize that your ex-spouse also needs judicial permission, as well as your permission, to take your children out-of-state on a vacation or an extended visit to the homes of distant relatives. Judicial permission is especially important if (s)he wants to take the children out of the country for these vacations or visits.
As you are discovering, you and your ex-spouse are still tied to each other even though you are divorced. The two of you must continue to communicate with each other frequently at least until your youngest child reaches the age of 21 or finishes college, whichever occurs last.