Washington state adopted a law limiting the right of the “primary” (custodial) parent to relocate the children outside of their current school district without the consent of the other parent or an order of the court, effective July 2000. If a primary parent relocates the residence of the children in violation of this law, the non-primary parent may seek a court order to force the return of the children and to change their custody or at least modify the current Parenting Plan to restate the non-primary parent’s time with the child under the changed circumstances.
What do I have to do if I want to move with my children?
If the move is within the child’s current school district, or if there is not yet any Parenting Plan or child custody court orders the Relocation Act does not apply. RCW 26.09.405. However, you should not “just move” without the consent of the other parent under any circumstances until you have obtained legal advice, because even though the Relocation Act may not yet apply to your child, the family law court could still order you to return the child to Washington pending final resolution of your dissolution, parentage action, etc.
If you are the children’s primary parent and you want to move to a new home in a different school district (in or outside of Washington) you must give the other parent and anyone else entitled by court order to spend time with the child, written notice of intent to relocate. RCW 26.09.430. You must provide the other parent or party with a proposed new Parenting Plan if the move makes continuation of the current Plan impractical. The other parent or party has 30 days to respond by filing a petition in court to prevent the move and if no objection is filed, the relocating parent can proceed with the move under the new Parenting Plan. RCW 26.09.480
What if the other parent objects to the proposed relocation? If the objecting party timely files an Objection Petition, a trial will be scheduled for the court to decide whether the move can take place or not. RCW 26.09. Such trials are expedited; the average length of time between petition filing date and trial is only about 90 days. The court must make specific written findings of fact to support its decision to allow or disallow the move, and must consider each of the mandatory “relocation” factors in reaching its decision. RCW 26.09. If relocation is not allowed, you can choose to retain your current Parenting Plan and location, or you if decide to move without the children, the court will make a new Plan that provides what residential time you would have with the children after your move.