Move Away – Parental Relocation Cases in Orange County, CA

Orange County Move Away AttorneyParental relocation is commonly referred to by lawyers and the courts as a “move-away.” Move-aways are among the most bitterly contested family law matters witnessed in family court.

Move Away & Parental Relocation – In these cases, a parent on either side will need an experienced family law attorney to advocate on their behalf to convince the court that their position regarding the potential move is “in the child’s best interest.”

Act Quickly: Establish a Strategy to Persuade the Court

Orange County move away attorney, Edwin Fahlen, has successfully represented both sides: parents with primary custody, as well as non-custodial parents, in move-away cases. In order to prevail in move-away litigation, it is important to understand your your rights, the laws that the court looks to for guidance, and have a courtroom strategy developed as soon as possible. Contact Ed Fahlen at (714) 395-5669 24/7 for assistance in your Orange County, California parent relocation matter.

Move-away cases – involve a custodial parent who wants to take the children of a divorce a significant driving distance away locally — or to another state from where they currently live. Many parents wrongly assume that a “move-away” case only applies when a parent wants to move a significant distance away to where an airline ticket would be necessary to effect a reasonable weekend visit. That is an incorrect assumption. The court could object if, for example, both parents would still reside in Orange County!

If one parent resides in La Habra (north OC) and the other parent wants to move to San Clemente (south OC) –often a two hour commute– the court would most likely consider such a distance as a move-away case.

Map of Orange County

If both parents are in agreement to relocation of minor children, obviously, there is no problem. However,if the non-custodial parent objects to the relocation of the children, that parent can and should contest the move-away.

Non Custodial Parents Can thank the 2004 LaMusga Relocation Case

In 2004 the California Supreme Court decided the LaMusga Relocation Case (case) in favor of the father, Gary LaMusga, who sought to prevent his ex-wife from moving his two young boys from California to Ohio. LaMusga, who was unable to follow his children to Ohio because he operated a small business and, had limited financial resources because he was already legally obligated by the court to pay significant child support payments, had battled the move-away for eight long years. The Supreme Court sided with the father and explained in the decision that “the likely impact of the proposed move on the noncustodial parent’s relationship with the children is a relevant factor in determining whether the move would cause detriment to the children.”

LaMusga Relocation CasePrior to the 2004 the California Supreme Court ruling, the custodial parent was frequently permitted to move the child to a different geographical area in California or even out of state. Now, because of the LaMusga case, judges have the “widest possible discretion” in considering whether to allow a parent’s request to move the child.

“Best Interest of the Child” – Is the BAR to Clear

In order to prevail in court, parents must sway the court to agree that their point of view is in the “best interest of the child.” Nowadays, if the custodial parent wants to move and the non-custodial parent objects, the court can order the child to remain here locally with the non-custodial parent. In such a decision, the court would likely determine that relocation would be a “significant detriment” to the child. In these cases the judge has access to the minor child and can question the child. If the child is under 12 the parents arguments are usually significantly weighted, but if the minor child is over 12, the child’s opinion carries significant weight.

Difficult Legal Battle

Move-away case are the most difficult type of custody cases because both parents are at extreme opposite, non-surrendering, positions. There is often no compromise or middle-ground position as in any other type of negotiation: move or don’t move! Move-away cases that are almost always aggressively litigated since the decision of the court will affect both the children and the parents for the rest of their lives. Whatever your side in your own move-away case, you must hire a skilled family law litigator to help you develop a potentially-winning strategy.

The court considers a plurality of factors, including:

  • How far the move would be – across the county or across the country?
  • How old are the the children – factors the court will consider.
  • The child’s relationship with both parents – the custodial and non-custodial parent. The judge will interview the children and get their input if age appropriate.
  • The reason for the move-away – The purpose cannot be simply to antagonize the non-custodial parent, or just to get away from being in occasional contact.
  • The reason must be compelling – Better living conditions, better schools, more extended family, etc.
  • The effect on the non-custodial parent – Will the non-custodial parent and child still have routine, meaningful contact?
  • Will the move damage the relationship – between the child and the non-custodial parent?
  • What is “the best interests of the child” – Can you persuade the court to the ‘PROS’ of a move-away (e.g. better schools, safer neighborhood, increased extended family contact, closeness to grandparents, cousins, aunts & uncles) that have a demonstrated prior connection to the child, etc.?
  • How will the move affect – the child’s social, educational and emotional well-being?

If parental relocation is granted, the court will generally modify the visitation plan to give the non-custodial parent additional holidays, longer weekends, and additional time during the summer months. The court may also reduce spousal support and/or child support obligations to offset the non-custodial parent’s increased travel expenses.

If you are considering a parental relocation / move-away as the custodial parent or are adamantly opposed to a move-away as the non custodial parent, give Ed Fahlen a call 24/7 at (714) 395-5669.


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Orange County Divorce Attorney Edwin FahlenI encourage you to reach out to make that free introductory meeting with me by calling (714) 395-5669. There is absolutely no pressure whatsoever. Typically, people will want to sit down with a divorce attorney to discuss their current circumstance and to learn of their options. I am pleased to offer this complementary legal service to residents of Orange County and beyond.

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Law Offices of Edwin Fahlen