Understanding Parental Relocation Laws in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, family law places a strong emphasis on the best interests of the child, particularly when it comes to parental relocation. When a parent with custodial rights decides to move, whether within the state or out of state, there are specific legal procedures that must be followed to ensure that the rights of both the child and the non-relocating parent are protected.
Legal Framework for Parental Relocation
The Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 23, Section 5337, outlines the legal requirements for custodial parents who wish to relocate. The law mandates that any custodial parent planning to move in a way that significantly impairs the ability of the non-custodial parent to exercise custodial rights must obtain consent from the other parent or court approval.
Before relocating, the custodial parent must provide a written notice to the non-custodial parent at least 60 days in advance, or within 10 days of learning about the relocation if it cannot be reasonably foreseen. This notice must include:
- The address of the new residence and its mailing address, if different;
- The names and ages of individuals in the new residence;
- The home telephone number;
- The name of the new school district and school;
- The date of the proposed relocation;
- Reasons for the proposed relocation;
- A proposal for a revised custody schedule; and
- A warning to the non-relocating parent that an objection must be filed within 30 days of receipt of the notice.
Objections and Court Procedures
If the non-custodial parent objects to the relocation, they must file an objection with the court within 30 days. The court will then consider several factors when deciding whether to approve the relocation. These factors include, but are not limited to:
- The nature, quality, extent of involvement and duration of the child's relationship with both parents and siblings;
- The age, developmental stage, needs of the child, and likely impact of relocation;
- The feasibility of preserving the relationship between non-relocating parent and child through alternative custody arrangements;
- The child's preference based on age and maturity;
- Whether there is an established pattern of conduct by either parent to promote or thwart a relationship with the other parent; and
- Any other factor affecting the best interest of the child.
Historical Context and Judicial Precedents
Pennsylvania courts have long grappled with balancing parental rights with children's best interests in relocation cases. For example, in Bisbing v. Bisbing, a landmark case from 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that when examining proposed relocations, courts should give no presumptive weight to either parent's motives but should instead focus squarely on how the move would affect the child's best interests.
Parental relocation cases in Pennsylvania are complex and require careful consideration by all parties involved. Custodial parents contemplating a move need to adhere strictly to statutory requirements or risk legal consequences. Simultaneously, non-custodial parents must be vigilant in asserting their rights when faced with potential relocation disputes. Ultimately, Pennsylvania law seeks to ensure that decisions are made based on what will serve the best interests of children while respecting parents' fundamental rights.