Mother's relocation request offered only minor benefits to child

Even after a divorce is complete, conflicts may arise when one parent wishes to relocate with the children, whether for a new job, to be closer to extended family or for other reasons. Such issues may also arise with regard to children born out of wedlock.

In general, the court will focus on the best interests of the children to make the determination of whether a relocation will be allowed. The Pennsylvania Superior Court case of C.M.K. v. K.E.M. provides an example.

A mother seeks to relocate

The mother and father in this case were never married, but resided together with their child for approximately four years in Grove City. When they split, the couple entered into a consent custody order providing the couple would share legal custody, with the mother having primary physical custody, subject to the periods of partial custody with the father on holidays, alternating weekends, and one evening during the week.

Several years later, the mother proposed relocating with the child to Albion, Pennsylvania, and the father objected. At the relocation hearing, the court denied mother's request. The mother appealed this decision.

Did the move benefit the child?

First, the Pennsylvania Superior Court explained that the mother's proposed move 68 miles away did constitute "relocation," since it threatened to significantly impair the father's ability to exercise his child custody rights.

The child had a very close relationship with the father, and the father had regular and continued involvement in the child's life that went beyond his periods of partial physical custody. This included active involvement in the child's sporting events as well as a desire to coach the child. The father also was involved in meetings with teachers and medical appointments.

The mother's proposed relocation would break the continuity and frequency of the father's involvement. Offering additional custodial time with the father would not compensate for these adverse effects. While the mother might have better job opportunities after the move as well as extended family nearby, the child already had a strong support system in Grove City with the father's relatives.

The advantages to the child of the move were minor at best, and thus the decision to deny the mother's relocation request was affirmed.

Seek advice before taking action

Whether you are attempting to relocate with a child or opposing such a move, it is crucial that you consult with an attorney before taking any action. The request must be made with the child's best interests in mind. Seek an attorney with many years of experience successfully handling complex and emotionally charged family law issues.