Relocation is defined in Pennsylvania Law as a change in a residence of a child which significantly impairs the ability of a non-relocating party to exercise custodial rights.
No custody relocation shall occur unless:
(1) every other person with custody rights consents; or
(2) the Court approves the proposed relocation.
A party proposing to relocate with a child(ren) is required to provide the notice to every other individual who has custody rights to the child(ren) via certified mail no later than:
(i) the 60th day before the date of proposed relocation; or
(ii) the 10th day after the date that the individual knows of the relocation, if:
(A) the individual did not know and could not reasonably have known of the relocation in sufficient time to comply with the 60-day notice; and
(B) it is not reasonably possible to delay the date of the relocation so as to comply with the 60-day notice.
Objection to Relocation.
Any party who is entitled to receive notice of a proposed custody relocation may file an objection to that proposed relocation and seek a temporary or permanent Order to prevent the relocation. Objection shall be made by completing and returning to the Court a “Counter-Affidavit Regarding Relocation,” which shall be filed with the Court within thirty (30) days of receipt of the proposed relocation notice, and served on the party proposing relocation by certified mail.
If a party who has been given proper notice of a proposed relocation does not file an objection to that proposed relocation within the thirty (30) days after receiving notice, it will be presumed that the non-relocating party has consented to the proposed relocation and the Court, in any future proceeding, shall not accept testimony challenging the relocation.
Confirmation of Relocation Where No Objection to Relocation has been Filed.
If no timely objection to the proposed relocation is filed, the party proposing the relocation needs to file, with the Court, the following items PRIOR to the relocation:
1. An Affidavit stating that the party proposing relocation provided notice to every individual entitled to notice, the time to file an objection to the proposed relocation has passed and no individual entitled to receive notice has filed an objection to the proposed relocation;
2. Proof that proper notice was given in the form of a return receipt with the signature of the addressee and the full notice that was sent to the addressee;
3. A Petition to confirm the relocation and modify any existing Custody Order; and
4. A proposed Custody Order.
Hearing if Objection to Relocation and/or Modification of Custody Order.
If any party with custody rights has filed a timely “Counter-Affidavit Regarding Relocation” objecting to the relocation and/or modification of the Custody Order, an expedited hearing must be held before the relocation occurs unless the Court finds that exigent circumstances exist, in which case the Court may approve the relocation pending an expedited full hearing.
The Court may set the expedited full hearing on its own Motion, but if it does not do so, said hearing will be scheduled upon Motion of either party.
At an expedited full hearing, in determining whether to grant a proposed relocation, the Court will consider the following factors giving weighted consideration to those factors that affect the safety of the child(ren):
(1) The nature, quality, extent of involvement and duration of the child’s relationship with the party proposing to relocate and with the relocating party, siblings and other significant persons in the child’s life.
(2) The age, developmental stage, needs of the child and the likely impact the relocation will have on the child’s physical, educational and emotional development, taking into consideration any special needs of the child.
(3) The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the non-relocating party and the child through suitable custody arrangements, considering the logistics and financial circumstances of the parties.
(4) The child’s preference, taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child.
(5) Whether there is an established pattern of conduct of either party to promote or thwart the relationship of the child and the other party.
(6) Whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for the party seeking the relocation, including but not limited to, financial or emotional benefit or educational opportunity.
(7) Whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for the child, including but not limited to, financial or emotional benefit or educational opportunity.
(8) The reasons and motivation of each party for seeking or opposing the relocation.
(9) The present and past abuse committed by a party or member of a party’s household and whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party.
(10) Any other factor affecting the best interest of the child.
The party proposing the move has the burden of establishing that the relocation will serve the best interest of the child based on the above factors.
Each party has the burden of establishing the integrity of that party’s motives in either seeking a relocation or seeking to prevent the relocation.
At a Relocation Hearing, if the party seeking relocation has failed to provide reasonable notice, the Court may consider that failure as:
(1) a factor in making a determination regarding the relocation;
(2) a factor in determining whether custody rights should be modified;
(3) a basis for ordering return of the child to the non-relocating party if the relocation has occurred without reasonable notice;
(4) sufficient case to order the party proposing the relocation to pay reasonable expenses and counsel fees incurred by the party objecting to the relocation; and
(5) a ground for contempt and imposition of sanctions against the party proposing the relocation.
However, any consideration of a failure to provide reasonable notice shall be subject to mitigation if the Court determines that such failure was caused in whole or in part by abuse.
At a Custody Relocation Hearing, if a party has relocated with the child prior to an expedited full hearing, the Court shall not confer any presumption in favor of the relocation.