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Can I move to another state if I have custody and there is no parenting plan?

Vancouver, WA |

I live in Washington State. My husband's job is relocating. He has raised my 9 year old since she was 3 and loves her as if she were his own. My daughters biological father has only been back in her life for a year. He has no job and only comes around when it's convenient for him. There is no parenting plan. Can he stop us from moving to Texas?

He is on my daughter's birth certificate.

Attorney Answers 3

  1. Legally speaking, you can move. Parenting plans are required to contain a summary of the relocation act which is found at RCW 26.09.430. Under the act, the custodial parent is required to give written notice to the non-custodial parent 60 days before a proposed move. Since there is no parenting plan in this case, there is no requirement that you follow the act.

    Can he stop you from moving to Texas. Yes and no. Bio dad can file a Petition to establish a residential schedule/parenting plan, which he is entitled to do. Once the court adopts a schedule, that schedule will contain the relocation act summary described above. You will then be obligated to provide 60 days notice and the child's bio dad can file an objection to relocation and seek an order restraining your relocation.

    The fact is that bio dad can slow down or delay your move, but based on the facts as you have described them, he probably cannot stop the move.The relocation act has a built in presumption that a custodial parent will be allowed to move. The party objecting to the relocation has the burden of proving the the benefit of the move is outweighed by the detriment. There are eleven factors to be considered under the statute. It would be tough for even a very active dad to prevent a relocation request made in good faith and for good reasons.

    Given bio dad's limited involvement, your daughter's attachment to her step-dad, the fact that there is a job waiting for your husband in Texas it would be highly unlikely that he will be able to meet his burden. Even if he challenged you in court, it is unlikely that he would win.

    The larger moral question is, will you give him notice before you move or will you tell him after the fact?

    Good Luck

  2. WA has a Relocation Act (in RCW 26.09) that requires the primary parent to provide formal written notice of relocation to the other parent at least 60 days (or when find out you need to move is that is less than 60 days before an intended move IF the other parent has court-ordered time with the child. A "parenting plan" is usually the court order governing the nonprimary parent's residential time. So technically you could move without the Relocation Act applying if the father has no court-ordered time. However, if you do that and the father is upset by it, he can petition the court to establish a parenting plan and request an immediate hearing to compel you to return the child to WA pending entry of a parenting plan by this state. Thus you should seriously consider giving the father the "notice of relocation" on the prescribed mandatory state form even though he does not have court-ordered t"child time" yet: if you did so he would have only 14 days to file a petition objecting to relocation prior to trial, as well as a legal action to establish a parenting plan in order to even obtain access to the court to request an order restraining the relocation pending trial on his petition(s). If he did not timely file such a motion, but later complained, your having given the notice would likely be in your favor at a hearing if he sought to get an order requiring you to return the child to WA. These are very important and somewhat complex legal decisions you need to make and you should certainly at least consult with an experienced WA family law attorney before you do so.


    Janet Watson

  3. You do not have custody if there is no parenting plan!! WA has subject matter jdx and personal jdx and will continue to have it until you have been gone for 6 months. The problem is this: you can leave, but if you do, you run the risk that the bio-dad will make you come back or make you hand over your daughter. Don't risk it. Get the parenting plan worked out before you go. Bio-dad can agree, but if you sneak away you are risking the loss of your child. If you do it correctly - establish a plan, become the primary residential parent, and THEN do a relocation properly, bio-dad cannot complain and get any sympathy. But if you just up and leave, you could really lose.

    Hope this helps. Elizabeth Powell

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