Orange County Move Aways Lawyer
Figuring Out Child Custody
Child custody disputes are some of the most emotionally charged and contentious matters to pass through the family court system. Parents often face complicated legal proceedings as they determine custody of their children in a divorce case, and unmarried parents may face challenging standalone custody cases. However, once a child custody order has been approved by a family court judge, there is still a significant possibility that the parents will later need to return to family court to have their custody order adjusted.
Legal Counsel for Orange County Child Custody Relocation Disputes
One of the most common reasons for a post-judgment modification of child custody orders is relocation, commonly referred to as “move-away” cases in the California family court system. The court cannot prevent a parent from moving. Every adult in the US has a constitutionally protected right to freedom of movement throughout the country. However, if that parent has a custody order with a co-parent, relocating with their child requires approval from the court.
Relocation cases are often difficult, and it’s common for the non-relocating parent to contest the other parent’s move-away request. If you have a custody agreement in Orange County, CA, and plan to move with your child, or if your child’s other parent has custody rights and intends to move and take your child with them, it’s vital to understand how move-away cases work and how an Orange County child custody attorney can assist you with this type of case.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
Custody cases are inherently emotional and prone to provoking heated legal battles between the parents involved. As a result, it can be difficult for any parent to approach this complex case with an objective and practical mindset. Legal representation from an experienced attorney can allow a parent to approach a difficult custody case with greater confidence and peace of mind, likely helping them reach much better results than they could have managed alone.
Your Orange County child custody attorney can help you evaluate the move-away order request in question, determine your best strategy for approaching the dispute, and guide you through the proceedings the relocation case will require. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Lisa R. McCall understand the emotional weight that custody determinations and relocation disputes carry. Our team believes in client-focused legal representation in every case we accept, and we can help you determine the best approach to your move-away case. Whether you are the parent intending to relocate or you need to contest your co-parent’s relocation request, we can provide the guidance and support you need to navigate this case with peace of mind.
How Is Custody Determined?
Divorcing parents will need to resolve child custody as part of their divorce proceedings. In addition, unmarried parents who decide to end their relationship and raise their children separately will also need a formal custody order. In both situations, parents cannot resolve custody disputes on their own or privately settle child custody. Instead, the court must review their situation and determine what sort of custody arrangements would best suit the interests of their children.
When parents enter the Orange County family court system to resolve custody rights, the judge handling their case will evaluate many factors to determine what type of custody arrangement would best suit their children’s best interests. Some of these factors are:
- The child’s unique needs include medical conditions, behavioral and social development, and disabilities.
- The income of each parent and their respective work schedules. A judge is unlikely to award a significant share of custody to a parent with a very demanding job that leaves them little time to address their child’s day-to-day needs.
- The criminal history of each parent, particularly incidents of domestic violence or child abuse. Even if a parent has a record of child abuse or domestic violence from many years ago, this will weigh heavily in the judge’s determination. Parents with records of violent felony convictions are unlikely to obtain substantial custody rights.
- The age and overall health of each parent. If a parent has a severe medical condition or disability, the judge must consider this in determining whether the parent can handle their child’s everyday needs.
- The parents’ respective histories of substance abuse. If a parent has any history of substance abuse, the judge will want to see clear proof of long-term sobriety before they award the parent any level of custody rights.
- The preferences of the child. If the child at the center of a custody dispute can convey their preferences as to which parent they would like to assume custody, the judge will want to hear what the child has to say.
A judge will also consider additional factors relevant to the case at hand. Once they decide what type of custody arrangement would best suit the child’s needs and interests, a custody order is created, and both parents must abide by the terms of the order.
When a judge deems both parents fit and able to handle their children’s needs, a joint custody order is the most likely outcome as long as both parents live close to one another. However, joint custody is not evenly distributed between the parents in most cases. The parents’ respective work schedules and living arrangements prevent a tenable equal distribution of custody rights.
It’s more common for one parent to assume a more significant share of physical custody, meaning their children will spend most of their time living with that parent. However, the parents will likely share legal custody, meaning they must consult one another regarding any significant decisions on behalf of their children. It’s also possible for one parent to receive sole custody, with the other parent receiving minimal visitation rights or no custody or visitation rights at all.
How Far Can You Move If You Have Joint Custody in California?
When divorced or unmarried separated parents have a joint custody order, both parents must abide by the terms of the order and notify the court of any major life events that affect the terms of the order. For example, relocation can come into play if a parent decides to move to a new area or receives a job opportunity in a new location. However, they cannot simply move with their child. Even if they are only moving a short distance, they must notify the other parent and the court.
Typically, moves within 50 miles do not lead to significant disputes in family court. However, the non-relocating parent can contest the other parent’s relocation request if they believe it interferes with their custody or visitation rights or if they believe the move would not suit their child’s best interests. In addition, they may contest the relocation because the move would present an undue hardship for them to exercise their custody rights.
Moving a significant distance away, such as across state lines or any distance greater than 50 miles, requires more involved legal proceedings. First, the parent desiring to relocate must file a formal petition for a move-away order, and the other parent has the right to contest their petition.
How Do I Get a Move-Away Order in California?
If you want to move with a custody order and take your child with you, you must file a petition for relocation with the Orange County family court. If you have sole custody of your child and their other parent has only limited visitation rights or no visitation or custody rights at all, the judge will likely grant your request with minimal dispute. However, the other parent may attempt to leverage their custody or visitation rights to argue against your petition. They may also attempt to prove that the desired relocation would be detrimental to the interests and needs of your child.
Securing a move-away order requires a process similar to any other family court order modification. The parent intending to relocate must notify the other parent of their intentions before filing a formal petition for relocation approval with the Orange County family court. A hearing is set, and the parties involved will have the opportunity to speak on the issue. The parent requesting approval for relocation must prove that the desired move suits the best interests of their child and will not interfere with the child’s basic needs. The other parent will likely offer contradictory evidence and testimony, attempting to convince the court to deny the relocation request.
A relocation request may not succeed if the court determines that the move would make the other parent unable to exercise their custody rights. For example, if the other parent has custody every other weekend, but the relocating parent intends to move to another part of the country, it would be unreasonable to expect the non-relocating parent to consistently arrange travel of this nature without imposing an undue burden hardship. In this situation, the relocating parent would likely need to prove that their desired move is more beneficial to their child than it is detrimental to the other parent’s custody or visitation rights.
How to Prepare for a Move-Away Determination
Whether you are the parent intending to move away with your child or you are preparing to fight a relocation request from your co-parent, reliable legal counsel is an invaluable asset for any move-away case. Your attorney can help you gather the evidence you need to support your position. For example, if you are relocating, you may need to prove that the move would provide your child with a better standard of living, better educational opportunities, or better access to medical care for their unique needs. If you are fighting relocation, your case hinges on proving that the intended relocation would pose some detriment to your child, such as isolating them from extended relatives in their current area of residence.
Your attorney will be invaluable as you prepare for your relocation dispute proceedings. However, it’s important to remember that the judge ultimately has the final say on the matter, and Orange County family court judges have broad discretionary powers to resolve custody disputes. Therefore, the outcome of your relocation dispute largely depends on the judge’s interpretation of what would best suit your child’s needs and interests.
Your child could potentially play a pivotal role in the relocation dispute. If a child is old enough to convey their preferences to the judge, the judge must consider the child’s testimony in their determination.
What Happens If a Parent Violates a Custody Order?
If a parent intentionally violates the terms of their custody order, they face contempt of court and severe legal penalties. While some situations can create unexpected issues involving the exercising of custody and visitation rights, parents can typically resolve one-off issues privately. However, when a parent consistently violates the terms of a family court order or engages in any egregious violation of the order, they risk facing severe penalties, including loss of their custody or visitation rights.
If a parent attempts to move away with their child without notifying the other parent and without securing approval from the Orange County family court, they could be prosecuted for parental kidnapping. Law enforcement offices across the country regularly coordinate to resolve these issues. When a parent engages in parental kidnapping, they are likely to lose their custody rights and may face jail time and other penalties.
Ultimately, you must secure the appropriate approvals before attempting to relocate with your child. If you are unsure how to approach this process, it’s wise to consult an experienced Orange County child custody attorney as soon as possible. They can help you understand the legal requirements you must fulfill to have your relocation request approved. Legal counsel will also be essential if you need to fight your coparent’s relocation request or hold them accountable for violating your custody order.
The Law Offices of Lisa R. McCall provide comprehensive and compassionate legal counsel to parents in the Orange County family court system. We understand how contentious and emotionally stressful child custody disputes can be, especially those involving relocation. If you are preparing for a move-away case in Orange County, we can help. Contact us today and schedule your consultation with an experienced Orange County child custody attorney.