Unmarried parents are often confused about their rights and responsibilities when they want to move their children, or if they want to stop the children’s other parent from moving the kids. For most families living under a court-ordered Washington parenting plan, there is a relocation statute that requires notice be given (except in limited circumstances) prior to moving the children. The type of notification (formal vs. informal) and other requirements (timing of notice, allowing time for objection of other parent) of notification vary based on whether the move is (1) out of the school district, or (2) within the school district. A lot of attention is paid to the notice required for a move outside the school district. There is a law requiring (in most cases) a formal notice of intended relocation. There is also a process that allows the other party to object to the proposed relocation. However, there are frequent instances where a residential parent merely wants to move across town to a new home or apartment. These types of moves often keep the children in the same school district (or even the same school). In these instances, residential parents often wonder what the law requires of them, and non-residential parents wonder whether they have any say in the decision.
RCW 26.09.450 requires that when the residential parent intends to move the kids within the same school district, the residential parent must provide actual notice to all people entitled to residential time with the child. According to that statue, the notice may be by any reasonable means. While “reasonable means” is a vague term (that can include verbal notice), it is usually advisable that a residential parent provide written notice. This reduces the chance that the non-residential parent will deny receiving notice. A copy of the notice you provide should be kept for your records. Many attorneys advise that this notice be sent by certified mail with a return receipt requested. The notice should likely include your new home address, phone number, and (if applicable) new school or daycare information. (Notice requirements are often different in cases involving domestic violence or other safety concerns.)
If you are the recipient of notice that your child’s residential parent is relocating within the school district, you are not allowed to formally object to the relocation. That said, in some cases an in-district move may be grounds for a modification of the parenting plan.
As mentioned above, this statute does not apply to all unmarried families, so if you are considering moving with your children, or if your children’s other parent is planning to move with your kids, it is likely in your best interest to discuss your case with a family law attorney. Please contact us if we can be of assistance.