Relocation, under the Custody Statute in Pennsylvania, occurs when a parent, whether or not there is a Custody Order, decides that he or she wishes to move, with a minor child, such a distance from his or her current home, which “significantly  impairs the ability of a non-relocating party to exercise custodial rights”. In October of 2012, HB 1639 became the law and a formal procedure was established, which must be followed in these cases.

First, a party wishing to relocate must complete, file and serve a Notice of Proposed Relocation upon the other party, together with a Counter-affidavit. The Counter-affidavit provides the other party with the opportunity to object to the Proposed Relocation. If the non-relocating party does not object within thirty days of receipt of the initial Notice, then a Petition to Confirm Relocation is filed with the Court and the relocation is approved.

However, if an objection is filed, then the Court will schedule the matter for appearance(s) before the Court and the matter will be litigated.

Of course, there are other options:

A party may agree with the Relocation and an agreement may be drafted and signed; or

The parties can decided to participate in Mediation or a Collaborative process to address the issues outside of Court and arrive at an understanding.

Some of the Frequently Asked Questions, about Relocation, are:

  1. What if I just leave and I don’t follow this process?  The other parent will likely file an Emergency Custody Petition with the Court and endeavor to obtain a Court Order that the child be returned to the County where the child previously resided.
  2. How are the words “substantial impairment” defined, from the definition of Relocation?: There is no exact definition. Just know that if there is a custody order, and a parent has a set schedule, which will become impractical or impossible by the other parent’s move, you need Court permission. Even if there is no Court order, if the move impairs the other parent’s rights to reasonable contact with the child, you need a Relocation Order.
  3. How long does it take to complete the Court process?  That depends in which county the matter will be heard. In Philadelphia County, for example, the process can take between six months and a year, and maybe more. There is no “emergency” relocation at the present time.
  4. How long does it take to complete a mediated process?  It may take as little as several weeks or months. Once the parties arrive at a negotiated agreement and sign a stipulation, this can be filed with the court and the matter is resolved. That’s the beauty of mediation, if you and the other parent agree to mediate.
  5. What factors does the Court consider? There are specific factors the Court must consider and they are spelled out in the Relocation Statute. While not a complete list, some factors are the quality of schools at the new location, whether there are family members at the new location, the reasons why a party wishes to relocate, the willingness and ability of the relocating party to have the non-relocating party enjoy custodial time, and many others.

Relocation is a thorny issue in Pennsylvania. It is best to err on the side of caution when deciding whether a Relocation issue is present in your intended move. Let us know if we can be of help.

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