What Happens To My Custody Agreement If I Need To Move Out of State?

map of US with arrow and words 'child custody' to represent a parent moving during

Parenting while divorced is difficult, but what happens when one parent has to move away? Keep reading to learn more about long-distance parenting, parenting plans, and relocation laws in California.

Custody in California

To understand the limitations of a parenting plan, it is important to first understand the laws around child custody and visitation. The judge may grant both parents physical and legal custody during a divorce. This is called joint custody, and both parents share parental responsibilities equally.

On the other hand, the judge may grant only one parent physical custody in an arrangement called sole physical custody. In these cases, one parent may have physical and legal custody while the other parent can only see the child through visitation. Parents can also share legal custody even if one parent has sole physical custody. The parent with physical custody is referred to as the custodial parent.

Are Parents Allowed to Relocate?

According to California law, custodial parents can relocate to a new house or neighborhood as long as the move does not negatively affect the child. Parents who want to relocate must give written notice to their ex-spouse no less than 45 days before the move. This waiting period allows the parents to adjust their parenting plan and visitation agreement to account for the greater distance between the child and the noncustodial parent.

If necessary, the noncustodial parent reserves the right to object to the relocation proposal and ask for a formal custody agreement modification. If the noncustodial parent files a formal request, both parties may need to appear in court to modify their agreement.

The judge will take all factors into consideration when ruling on a child custody agreement modification. If the parent has to move for work or to get access to specific medical treatment facilities, the judge will take that into account and make their decision based on this information.

Parenting in Different States

According to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, the court may make approve a request for out-of-state relocation if:

  • The destination is the child's home state where they have lived for at least six months or lived there before the divorce
  • The child has familial, community, and/or friendship connections in the state. There is proof to support the fact that the child will receive quality care and support in the new location.
  • The child has either been abandoned or is in danger of abuse if they cannot relocate
  • The other state meets one or all of the criteria listed previously or meets one and chooses not to make a custody decision

Custody decisions can only be made in one state, which means that the custody order will be handled by whichever state a parent files a modification request. This also means that the custody decision could fall under different state laws if the original proposal was filed somewhere else. If a parent makes a request in California, the case is under California law and jurisdiction, but if the request is filed in another state like Arizona or New York, the courts in that state will handle the case.

It is best to file a modification request in the same state where the original order was decided. In other words, if you filed for divorce and received a custody order in CA, you or the other party should file the modification request with a court in CA. This helps ensure consistency in the decision-making process and helps protect all parties involved from disagreements or accusations of kidnapping if the case is handled out of state.


If you have to move out of state for any reason as the custodial parent, you can pursue a child custody agreement modification. To do so, you must file a formal request with the court and give the other parent notice ahead of time. Once both parties have completed the necessary documentation, the court will schedule a relocation hearing to decide whether to approve the out-of-state move.

The relocation and modification process is complicated, but our experienced attorneys at Morales Law, P.C. can help. We have guided countless clients through the process and advocated for their interests. Schedule a consultation with Morales Law, P.C. to find out how we can assist you.