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Reminder for Parents Planning to Relocate

Parents sharing a child’s residential time under a court order (like a residential schedule or parenting plan) should be aware of the requirements of the relocation provisions of RCW 26.09.  That chapter of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) requires that under certain circumstances a residential parent relocating the child must give notice prior to the relocation.  Parents are sometimes confused about what circumstances require them to provide such notice. 

In general, if a parent intends to relocate with a child outside the child’s current school district, the parent must give sixty days’ written notice of his or her intent to relocate.  The non-moving parent will then have thirty days within which to object to the move, or the move will be permitted and the parenting plan may be modified.  Even if the non-moving parent does object, the move may still be permitted.  The rules of notice are fairly particular and must be followed closely to ensure compliance (specific language and content must be included in the notice).

If the moving parent does not have sixty days’ notice and the move cannot reasonably be delayed to provide such notice, RCW 26.09.440 provides that notice must be given within five days of the moving parent’s receipt of notice.

If the move will be within the child’s current school district, the requirements of relocation are not as laborious.  A parent relocating with the child’s school district must provide actual notice.  The non-moving parent will not have the right to object, but may seek a modification of the parenting plan or residential schedule based on the move.  Depending on the size of the child’s school district and other relevant factors, the child’s move within the school district may have a significant impact on the practicality of the current parenting schedule (for example if prior to the move the child walked home to the non-relocating parent’s house) in which case the non-relocating parent may decide to seek a modification based on RCW 26.09.260.

There are cases where the requirements of the relocation statute may not apply.  This includes some cases that involve domestic violence.  If domestic violence is part of your parenting plan or court order, it is in your best interest to speak with a family law attorney or a domestic violence advocate prior to providing notice to the other party.  In circumstances involving domestic violence, even providing notice of a move could be deemed a violation of a domestic violence order.

In a typical family law case, if you do not provide notice prior to a move, a number of things may happen.  One potential result of not providing notice, is that if the child’s other parent complains, you may be required to continue making your child available for visits with the other parent as set forth in the parenting plan.  This could require you (and your child) to travel what may be great distances on a regular basis (and likely at your expense).  You may also have to pay for legal costs and fees for the other party to bring an action to complain of your move without notice.  There is also a chance that the other parent will not complain and nothing will happen if you move your child without notice (however if a parent does not complain of a move without notice, they probably would have agreed to the move easily to begin with – so providing notice is still advisable).

If you have a parenting plan in place and you plan to relocate with your child, it is probably in your best interest to call a family law attorney about your legal obligations to the child’s other parent.  If you would like to speak with a Seattle area family law attorney, please contact us today.