The state of Washington has strict laws about a parent relocating a child. We represent parents with primary residential custody who want to move, as well as parents who do not want their child to relocate. Both Amanda DuBois and Lucia Ramirez Levias are experienced lawyers in parental relocation issues.
I just got transferred out of state – What do I do?
Washington courts mandate compliance with the Relocation Statute, so if you are the parent with whom the child resides the majority of the time and wish to relocate, don’t take any chances. Do your homework before taking action.
If you are the parent who does not want your child to relocate, you must follow the statutory requirements by filing your objection within the required time period. Whether you are the relocating primary parent or the parent objecting to proposed relocation, seeking the advice of an attorney experienced in relocation is extremely important.
When the Primary Parent Relocates
Under Washington law, if the primary parent intends to move outside the child’s current school district, that parent must notify the other parent of their intention by either personally serving the other party with formal notice, or by certified mail with return receipt. This must be accomplished according to statutory requirements at least 60 days before the intended move.
If the primary parent could not have known about the move in time to give 60 days notice, notice must be given within five days of learning of the intended move.
If the move is within the same school district, the primary parent must provide notice to the other parent by any reasonable means. The second parent may not object to the move, but may ask for modification of the parenting plan (which has its own set of specific legal requirements).
Notice of relocation may be delayed for 21 days if the primary parent is entering a domestic violence shelter or moving to avoid a “clear, immediate and unreasonable risk to health and safety.” If their address is protected under a court order or the parent is part of the “address confidentiality program,” their address may be withheld.
In any case, failure to give the required notice of relocation may be grounds for sanctions, including contempt, which is very serious. It is a good idea to seek the advice of an attorney before taking any action when desiring to move your child.
The primary parent cannot move the child during the time period in which the other parent has the right to voice their objection unless (a) the delayed notice provisions apply or (b) a court order allows the move.
If no objection to the move is filed within 30 days after service of the notice of intended relocation, the move will be permitted and the primary parent’s proposed revised residential schedule may be confirmed by the court.
When a Parent Objects to Relocation
My ex wants to move my kids – Can you help me?
If you are the parent objecting to the proposed relocation of your child, you must file a formal “Objection to Relocation”, which will likely result in a hearing. This objection must be served on all persons entitled to time with the child. The primary parent cannot typically move the child before the hearing unless there is a “clear, immediate and unreasonable risk to the health or safety of a person or a child.”
If you are objecting to the move of your child, we advise you to seek legal counsel immediately upon receipt of the notice of relocation. There are specific time requirements by which you must reply. Be sure you don’t lose your rights by letting the time period lapse.
In the event that parents do not agree on the proposed relocation of a child, they must proceed to trial. The statute sets forth specific criteria for the court to determine whether a child will be allowed to relocate. Unfortunately, the criteria are confusing and open to interpretation. Each case will be decided by a judge. Because the stakes are so high, you should seek legal advice sooner rather than later when a relocation is proposed.
In our experience, when a child custody dispute involves a relocation, the case is far more likely to go trial. Whether you are objecting to a relocation or seeking to relocate, you will want an attorney who is prepared to go to trial. Our attorneys have years of trial experience in relocation cases and are well prepared to argue your case in court.
When a Parent Attempts to Kidnap Child to Another Country
Lucia Ramirez Levias is experienced in cases involving threats to remove a child from the United States (see our representative cases). If a child is taken to a country that has ratified the Hague Convention, you can get a court order to have the child returned and that country will enforce it. However, not all countries follow the Hague Convention. For example, many South Asian and Middle Eastern countries have not ratified the Hague Convention and would not return a kidnapped child. If you are concerned about child abduction to a non-Hague Convention country, Lucia can help you take steps to protect your child.
If you have further questions concerning parental relocation or international moves, or want to arrange a confidential consultation with one of our Seattle or Bellevue child custody attorneys, please contact us today. We have offices in Seattle and Bellevue-Redmond and can meet with you in one or both of those locations as needed. We look forward to meeting you and helping you resolve any parental relocation issues you may have.