Parenting Plan

Washington Relocation Statute

Whether or not you have completed your first parenting plan with your child’s other parent, life seems to keep moving forward. Sometimes parents find that they need to move, either to another city or another state, for various reasons. A common question that arises is “what are my rights to move with our shared child?” Washington State’s relocation statute lays out the means to move and what must be considered prior to approve the move.

Here are the Notice Requirements for RelocationRCW 26.09.440 Notice Requirements

When must you give notice to the other parent?

The first issue we must address is giving notice to the other parent. Washington requires that you either personally serve the other party via personal service (by a person who is not part of the case) or by any form of mail requiring a return receipt when you are moving out of the school district. You are required to give this notice at least 60 days prior to the date of your intended move. If your move is sudden and cannot give 60 days, you must give notice within 5 days of learning of your need to move, like if you are being evicted or if you need to leave due to your employment or education.

What information must you give to the other parent?

At the time this was written, the court uses a mandatory form for the notice. The court can be found on the Washington Court’s website, or you may go to your local law library to obtain the form. In the notice, you must give:

(i) An address at which service of process may be accomplished during the period for objection;

(ii) a brief statement of the specific reasons for the intended relocation of the child (look to the factors listed below for what to include in your statement); and

(iii) notice to the nonrelocating person that an objection to the intended relocation of the child or to the relocating person’s proposed revised residential schedule must be filed with the court and served on the opposing person within thirty days or the relocation of the child will be permitted and the residential schedule may be modified pursuant to RCW 26.09.500.

(iv) The street address of the new residence

(v) New mailing address

(vi) New home telephone number

(vii) Name and address of the new school and/or daycare

(viii) Date of the intended move

(ix) A new proposed parenting plan or residential schedule, if necessary.

What to do if you are objecting to a Relocation –RCW 26.09.480 Objection to Relocation

How long does the other parent have to reply?

The court will grant your relocation by a motion for default after 30 days if the other parent does not respond. If the other parent objects, this does not necessarily block the move, however, you may need to seek a temporary relocation while the case is pending.

What does the court consider in a relocationRCW 26.09.520 Basis for Relocation

Parents who have a majority of the residential time with the child bear a different burden than parents with “substantially equal residential time.” (ie. a 50/50 parenting plan).

When proposing to relocate with the child, you must give the court your reasons for the move. The law creates a “rebuttable presumption” that relocation will be permitted if you have the child a majority of the time. This means that the court will just assume that the move is in the best interest of the child. The other parent can object and he must prove that the detrimental effect of relocation outweighs the benefit of the change to the child and the relocating person based on the following factors:

(1) The relative strength, nature, quality, extent of involvement, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent, sibling, 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 seeking relocation 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 as a result of domestic violence, substance abuse, child abuse, sex abuse, or mental illness that interferes with that parent’s ability to perform parental duties, neglect, lack of emotional ties, etc.

(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.

For parents who have substantially equal residential time (plans which give each parent at least 45% of the residential time) the presumption no longer exists. In these situations, the court doesn’t give any assumption that the move will be in the best interest of the child. The reason for this is that there is a greater detriment to the child to have either parent’s residential time reduced when the parents spend equal time with the child.

The Court cannot consider any evidence on the issue of whether or not the person who is seeking to relocate will forego relocation if the relocation is not permitted or whether the opposing party will relocate as well if the relocation is permitted.

What to do if you or your ex is attempting to relocate your childContact Whalley Law

Relocation is a difficult process and is highly fact-specific when discussing the factors listed above. The court has a lot of discretion and having a skilled attorney on your side is crucial in improving your odds of relocating your child out of the school district.

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