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Can your ex just leave California and take your children?

Whether you have gone through a divorce and now share custody with your ex or were never married to the other parent of your children, you may worry about whether the decisions of your ex will influence your parental rights and access to the children. It is common to wonder about what will happen if your ex wants to move out of California with your children.

One parent moving with the children could certainly restrict or diminish the parental relationship of the other parent unless they choose to relocate as well. The good news is that as long as you have a parenting plan from a divorce or have established your parental role legally, the courts can protect you from your ex leaving the state unexpectedly.

Custody orders and parenting plans limit parental relocations

If you look carefully at the parenting plan or custody determination from your divorce, you will likely find a clause that specifically addresses relocations. The same is true of a parenting plan for unmarried parents. If you've had visitation or paid support, you have parental rights.

Some parents will go to extreme lengths to alienate the children from their other parents, so the courts tend to proactively address this issue in all parenting plans. It is common for the courts to limit relocations in one of several ways. Often, the courts will put a mile limit on how far away the new home can be from the marital home or the home of the other parent.

In some cases, the restrictions may apply to specific counties, while in others, the courts may require official approval for any relocation outside of the current school district. In order for a parent to move farther away than the distance prescribed in the parenting plan, they will have to go to the courts and ask them to change the plan and approve the move.

You can present evidence about the motive behind the move

Sometimes, people have legitimate reasons for needing to relocate after a divorce. Someone trying to re-establish a professional reputation, for example, may need to move wherever they can find work. Those struggling to find employment may need to move where they have family and can live cheaply until they secure a new job. Those family and community ties may also be necessary to offset the expense of child care for someone trying to rebuild a professional career.

However, if your ex has previously threatened to isolate the children from you or to move away to damage your relationship with them, especially if they made these statements in front of other people or in a written medium, such as in emails, text messages or social media posts, you may be able to convince the courts of their ulterior motive in seeking to move away.

Additionally, if they have a history of denying you visitation or interfering in your parental rights, that may help you build a case against the relocation. If you have evidence that alienation is the motive for the move, the courts may not approve it.

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