The Buzz about Washington’s Child Relocation Act
It’s no secret that housing prices in King County are skyrocketing . Plus, in this global economy, job hopping is no longer frowned up and out of state job transfers are commonplace. Exciting new jobs can turn a longstanding parenting arrangement upside down. To avoid creating panic on both sides, it’s a good idea to learn a little bit about relocation laws in Washington state.
When parents share custody and one parent wants to move out of their school district, the court has jurisdiction. Washington has a specific group of statutes (RCW 26.09.405 to 26.09.560) make up the Child Relocation Act (CRA). The CRA provides standards for the court to follow in determining whether or not to allow the relocation and what kind of Parenting Plan should apply. Until recently, the CRA left parents with a 50/50 plan with little recourse if one party wanted to relocate. However, on July 28, 2019, a new law went into effect that dramatically altered the CRA. Now, anyone with majority or substantially equal residential time (at least 45 percent) who wants to move with children must notify every other person who has court-ordered time with the children. This means that parents with 50/50 Parenting Plans must comply with the CRA. In some cases, it also makes it difficult for parents with more than 50% of time to be permitted to relocate.
If you are thinking about relocating, it’s a good idea to consult with a family law attorney because there are very specific requirements and nuances to the CRA. Failure to comply with these rules may damage your case with the court. For example, if the move is to a different school district, the relocating person must serve the other party notice at least 60 days before the intended move. Also, during the 30 days after the notice is served, the relocating person may not move to a different school district with the children unless s/he has a court order allowing the move.
In deciding whether or not to allow the relocation, the court uses the following factors to determine whether the detrimental effect of the proposed move outweighs its benefits:
(1) The relative strength, nature, quality, extent of involvement, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent, siblings, and other significant persons in the child’s life;
(2) Prior agreements of the parties;
(3) Whether disrupting the contact between the child and the person with whom the child resides a majority of the time would be more detrimental to the child than disrupting contact between the child and the person objecting to the relocation;
(4) Whether either parent or a person entitled to residential time with the child is subject to limitations under RCW 26.09.191;
(5) The reasons of each person for seeking or opposing the relocation and the good faith of each of the parties in requesting or opposing the relocation;
(6) The age, developmental stage, and needs of the child, and the likely impact the relocation or its prevention will have on the child’s physical, educational, and emotional development, taking into consideration any special needs of the child;
(7) The quality of life, resources, and opportunities available to the child and to the relocating party in the current and proposed geographic locations;
(8) The availability of alternative arrangements to foster and continue the child’s relationship with and access to the other parent;
(9) The alternatives to relocation and whether it is feasible and desirable for the other party to relocate also;
(10) The financial impact and logistics of the relocation or its prevention; and
(11) For a temporary order, the amount of time before a final decision can be made at trial.
The decision to relocate is not an easy one for most people. If you’re subject to a Washington Parenting Plan, the decision really cannot be taken lightly. Still, there are times when a golden opportunity may present itself in a new even far away location. Nowadays, job opportunities arise quickly, but before you dive in and commit to a major move, be sure to protect yourself by investing in a consultation with an experienced family attorney who understands the new CRA.
Monica Cary is a Seattle Bellevue family law attorney with over 17 years of experience as well as a former King County Family Law Pro Tem Commissioner. DuBois Cary Law Group, PLLC is a full-service woman-owned family law firm providing compassionate legal representation for Northwest Families with over 30 years of combined experience. Call us today.