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The Ins and Outs of Move-Away Cases

One of the most highly litigated areas in child custody cases is when a custodial parent decides to move away.

Hiring an experienced child custody lawyer and understanding the steps involved in these cases can help the process go smoothly if you find yourself needing to move, or facing a situation where your former spouse wants to move away with your children.

A Child Custody Overview

A court issues custody and visitation orders based on the children’s best interests when a couple separates or divorces in California.

“The court’s goal is to provide opportunity for the children to have ongoing and frequent contact with both parents,” says John Griffith, a divorce attorney in Encinitas, CA.

Once a final custody order is in place, it can only be changed if a significant change of circumstances occurs that will require a change in custody for the child’s well-being, according to Click on child custody to learn more.

Key Points to Remember in Move-Away Cases

When making the decision, the court must assume that the custodial parent will move whether or not the move-away is granted, says Griffith, who specializes in California divorce law.

“In other words, the court can’t deny the move-away in an effort to keep the moving parent from moving just because it’s better for the kids to have both parents in the same state,” he says.

The primary custodial parent has a presumed right to move out of the State of California. The burden is on the noncustodial parent to prove that it is in the best interests of the children that custody should be changed, should the custodial parent move out of state.

This type of case arises when a parent with joint or sole custody of the children plans to move to a location that is far enough away to disrupt the current custodial arrangement. The move will require new custody orders, so one parent must file a motion with the court.

The parent who is moving might file for permission to move with the children. The parent remaining in the area also could file the motion for a custody change. The court’s responsibility in these cases is not to allow or deny a parent’s wish to move; it’s to determine whether the children should be allowed to move with that parent and to modify visitation if necessary.

A number of factors are considered by the court, including the children’s ages, relationship with the parents, how far away the parent is moving, and where the child wants to live – provided the child is mature enough to make an informed choice.

When a move-away is granted, there is an automatic 30-day stay of the orders, which gives the losing parent time to appeal the decision.

“We recently won a move-away case after six months of litigation,” Griffith says.

Griffith represented a mother of five children who wanted to move to be closer to family after learning of her husband’s infidelity. She also felt her career prospects would be better elsewhere.

“In my mind it was clear what the result should be according to the law, as the mother had been a stay-at-home mother for the entire marriage and the father worked full time,” Griffith says. ”It wouldn’t make any sense to change custody to the father simply because the mother wanted to move. The other attorney saw it differently, but we ended up prevailing.”

Griffith calls these cases “very sad” and says it’s always important to be sensitive to the effect the outcome will have on the children. It is always best for parents to co-parent together on a daily basis, but in today’s day and age, it is not always feasible. If you need more information about divorce and family law, call the experienced child custody lawyers at Griffith, Young & Lass today.  858-345-1720

You can find more about the law and procedure involved in a child custody move away by clicking here

Meet Your Dedicated San Diego Family Attorneys
Family Attorney John N. Griffith, CFLS
Family Attorney John N. Griffith, CFLS

Family Attorney, John N. Griffith, CFLS

John Griffith has practiced exclusively in the area of family law since 2009. John is a Certified Family Law Specialist certified as an expert in the area of family law by the California Board of Legal Specialization.


Family Attorney, Catie E. Young, ESQ.
Family Attorney, Catie E. Young, ESQ.

Family Attorney, Catie E. Young, ESQ.

San Diego family lawyer Catie Young has a wide range of litigation experience. She has worked in civil litigation. She has successfully represented clients in many areas of family law including child support, child custody, divorce and domestic violence. She has a unique approach to each child custody case, so clients of Griffith, Young & Lass tend to gravitate toward her in these cases.


Family Attorney Amy J. Lass, Esq.
Family Attorney Amy J. Lass, Esq.

Family Attorney, Amy J. Lass, Esq.

Amy Lass was born in New York and raised in San Diego, California. Amy graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 2003 with a B.S. in Economics with a concentration in Enterprise Accounting and went on to earn her law degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law and graduated cum laude in 2006. Amy takes a practical and cost considerate approach to the process while striving to balance the emotional needs and objectives of her clients.


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The Typical Divorce Process in California
Discovery of Assets & Obligations (1-3 months)
1 Complaint for Divorce Filed Start of litigation
2 Complaint is Served Varies, but usually shortly after the complaint is filed
3 Answer to Complaint Due 30 days from the date of service
4 Mediation Anytime, but usually after initial discovery
5 Temporary Hearing Usually early in the process
6 Late Case Evaluation / Judicial Hosted Settlement Conference Usually near the end of the case
7 Trial (If Needed) The goal is to settle, but if your case goes to trial, it could take months after the start of litigation.
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