How Will My Move Impact My California Child Custody Order

How Will My Move Impact My California Child Custody Order?

Developing mutually agreeable custody terms during divorce can be a lengthy and involved process. Even when parents are relatively amicable, it can be challenging to craft orders that consider and balance everyone’s needs. Once your final legal and physical custody terms are in place, it can be a relief. However, what happens if you need to relocate? In this situation, you need to know: How will my move impact my California child custody order?

California Child Custody Orders

California child custody orders refer to two types of custody: legal and physical.

Legal custody—is the right to make decisions regarding your kids. Legal custody orders typically contain details about how parents can make significant and routine decisions about their kids. These typically include choices such as where their children go to school, their routine medical care, psychological treatment, extracurricular activities, and attending activities such as summer camp.

Physical custody—concerns how parents and kids will spend time together. These orders typically include information such as visitation schedules, exchanging custody, and how electronic contact will work when the kids are with the other parent. In some instances, physical orders will be fairly straightforward. In others, there may be several complex provisions that are specific to the parties and their circumstances.

When a parent moves, it can impact both types of custody. The degree to which will depend on the parties, their situation, and the type of California custody they share.

Types of California Custody

In California, parents can share joint custody, or one parent will have primary or sole custody of children. Generally, when parents have joint custody, they make decisions about their children together and have relatively equal authority. They also usually spend significant time with their children according to a set schedule. Joint physical custody schedules can vary, but they often involve one parent having the children slightly more than the other, especially during the school year.

When a parent has sole custody, they usually have primary authority to make choices regarding their kids and will have them most of the time. The other parent may have an order that allows them to be informed of decisions and see their children. However, the sole custody parent will usually be the primary decision-maker on parenting decisions and the terms of visitation.

Moving and Your California Child Custody Orders

If the parent plans to change the child’s residence for more than 30 days, unless there is a prior written agreement to the removal, they must provide the other parent with at least 45 days’ notice of the change of residence.


The distance will matter if you and your ex share joint custody and need to move for work or another reason. If you need to move a short distance away, typically less than 50 miles, it may not impact your order. However, every custody order is unique to the parties, and yours may contain an agreed term that requires you to return to court for a move that is even a short distance away.

If you share joint custody and need to move more than 50 miles away, you will have to have your custody orders legally modified. A primary custody parent can generally move with their child. The non-custodial parent can oppose a custodial parent’s move. However, the objecting parent would have to be able to show that the move would be harmful to the child.

Parents with joint custody can also object to a proposed modification. However, if you share custodial rights, you and your ex may be able to reach an agreement to modify your custodial order without having a contested legal hearing. Sometimes parties negotiate or use mediation to change their custody order.

Modification Factors

If you share custody and need to move a significant distance, how you and your ex spend time with your kids will most likely change. Courts will consider numerous factors when considering proposed modifications to a California custody order, including:

  • How far the parent will be moving away.
  • Travel expenses for visitation
  • The parent’s reason for moving
  • The amount of time the child spends with each parent
  • The child’s age, needs, and preference
  • The child’s connection with siblings and other family members
  • The child’s connection to friends and their community
  • If parents are likely to encourage continuing contact between their child and the other parent.

When you propose changes to a California custody order, your decisions should reflect that they support your child’s best interest.

If you or your ex are moving or anticipate a move, you should consult with an experienced California, child custody attorney. You and your lawyer can evaluate your circumstances and identify your options.

Contact a California Child Custody Attorney

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced California family law attorneys who can answer your questions about moving and other child-custody-related matters. We assist clients along California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin, San Jose, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website.

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