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Can my ex-wife take our daughter to another state without telling me?

Torrance, CA |

Me and my ex-wife lived in CA and she has full custody of our daughter while I am granted visitation rights. She recently left for WA with our daughter without telling me and is planning on living there. Can she do this? Is there anything I can do to see my daughter again without going to WA?

Attorney Answers 4

  1. You must hurry! Relocating a child away from the non-custodial parent without consent or a court order isn't within the scope of rights conferred by "full custody" but it is up to you to do something about it. You can seek enforcement of your visitation order and/or a change in custody based upon her actions, but you will need advice and assistance from a local attorney. You can find attorneys by searching among the profiles here on Avvo. Start making calls now, and don't stop until you find someone who can help you. Good luck!

    Ms. Brown may be reached at 718-878-6886 during regular business hours, or anytime by email at: All of Ms. Brown’s responses to questions posted on AVVO are intended as general information based upon the facts stated in the question, and are provided for educational purposes of the public, not any specific individual, and her response to the question above is not legal advice and it does not create an attorney-client relationship. Ms. Brown is licensed to practice law in New York. If you would like to obtain specific legal advice about this issue, you must contact an attorney who is licensed to practice law in your state.

  2. You can file a motion immediately for custody and visitation modification, and you can require her to return back here, so long as the original order was issued in California. They may allow her to take the child anyway, but it depends on the best interests of the child. This would depend on your daughter's age, and possibly what her wishes are if she is old enough. Do it before she establishes residency in Washington. For further information, visit

    Since legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.

  3. While you can certainly go to court to get this matter clarified, I suggest that you start by actually talking to your daughter's mom. You need to do this right now, because, if you do need to go to court, you should do so quickly. However, if you try to talk with mom before going to court, and she is uncooperative or unwilling to discuss alternatives, a court may look more favorably on your effort to continue to have easy access to your child.

    You don't indicate what makes you think the move is long term. If it is and you have been seeing your daughter only a couple of days a week, or less, then it's quite likely that a court would allow the move. However, you can avoid the financial expense and emotional toll on your daughter by talking with mom first, before rushing to court. If you can't work out something with her, the court remedy is still available.

    It would also be a very good idea to consult with a lawyer experienced in family law matters. You can consult with a lawyer about your question for little or no cost through a lawyer referral service in your area. You can find your nearest lawyer referral service by clicking on the link below.

    If you found this response helpful, please let me know by clicking the "Mark as Helpful" button at the bottom of this response. Thank you. Mr. Richardson practices in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, and concentrates in non-adversarial dispute resolution as a mediator and collaborative lawyer. The California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization certifies Mr. Richardson as a specialist in California Family Law. He offers no comments or advice with respect to the laws of any state or jurisdiction other than California. The above answer is a general explanation of legal rights and procedures. Mr. Richardson is not your lawyer unless and until you and he have personally met together. This post does not constitute legal advice, and no lawyer client relationship results.

  4. If you want to start a nasty legal battle good luck. If you want a livable future with your FAMILY--MEDIATE this. Talk ti the mother of your children whom you once loved. Do NOT let this get ugly expensive and toxic. if you doubt me, talk to anyone who ash lived through a "moveaway" case.

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