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Family Law Blog

What if One Parent Wants to Move Under the New PA Child Custody Law?

By Jason Martin, Esq. on 2/3/12 9:53 AM

When Pennsylvania child custody is split between parents, conflicts almost inevitably arise.  One issue that I am often asked about is what happens when one parent wishes to relocate with the child.  The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently analyzed this issue under the new PA Child Custody Law (23 Pa.C.S.A. § § 5321 et seq.). 

In this case (E.D. v. M.P., 2011 PA Super 238 (Pa. Super. 2011)), primary physical custody of the child had been awarded to Father and partial custody and visitation to Mother back in 2009.  Father filed a Petition for Special Relief on January 25, 2011 to seek permission to relocate to New York with the child as a result of an opportunity for advancement in Father’s employment.  The trial court issued a rule to show cause why such relief should not be granted on Mother.  After a hearing, the trial court granted permission for Father to move to New York with the child.  Mother appealed.     

relocation under the pa child custody lawThe Superior Court based its analysis on PA’s new Child Custody Act, which went into effect on January 24, 2011.  The Court reasoned that the legislative intent behind the Act was for it to apply to all PA child custody proceedings commenced after January 24, 2011, including a Petition for Relocation, even if the original custody action was filed prior to the effective date. 

PA’s new Child Custody Act sets forth both the procedure and standards for a relocation request.  Under the Act, the party seeking to relocate does not make an initial filing with the court; instead, he or she must send a notice as specified in the law to every other party with custody rights.  The notice must contain a proposed revised custody schedule and a counter-affidavit.  A party receiving such a notice who objects to the terms of the relocation or the revised custody schedule must complete the counter-affidavit and file it with the proper court within 30 days.  The trial court must then “hold an expedited full hearing before the relocation occurs, unless it finds that exigent circumstances require approval of the relocation prior to an expedited full hearing.”  Id

The Act also changes the legal standards that a PA court must consider when ruling on a request to relocate.  Trial courts must consider the ten factors listed in Subsection 5337(h):

  1. The nature, quality, extent of involvement and duration of the child’s relationship with the party proposing to relocate and with the nonrelocating party, siblings and other significant persons in the child’s life.

  2. The age, developmental stage, needs of the child and the likely impact the relocation will have on the child’s physical, educational and emotional development, taking into consideration any special needs of the child.

  3. The feasibility of preserving the relationship with the nonrelocating party and the child through suitable custody arrangements, considering the logistics and financial circumstances of the parties.

  4. The child’s preference, taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child.

  5. Whether there is an established pattern of conduct of either party to promote or thwart the relationship of the child and the other party.

  6. Whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for the party seeking relocation, including, but not limited to, financial or emotional benefit or educational opportunity.

  7. Whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for the child, including, but not limited to, financial or emotional benefit or educational opportunity.

  8. The reasons and motivation of each party for seeking or opposing the relocation.

  9. The present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party’s household and whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party.

  10. Any other factor affecting the best interest of the child.

The Superior Court remanded the case back to the trial court to make the proper analysis under the new child custody law. 

Any parent involved in a PA child custody action should consult an experienced child custody attorney who is familiar with PA’s new Child Custody Law.  Schedule a free consultation with a Montgomery County, PA child custody attorney.