What's the Relocation Act?
The Relocation Act is very complicated. It applies to parents who are no longer together and who have a Court-Ordered Parenting Plan or Residential Schedule, as well as to others who have Court-Ordered time with a child, as in the case of third party custodians. For purposes of this guide, I will only reference parents. The primary residential custodian (i.e., the parent or individual who has the child(ren) more than the other parent) must follow the rules of the Relocation Act when s/he wants to relocate the child(ren) to a different residence. While adult parties have a constitutional right to move wherever they want (except as otherwise Ordered by the Court in criminal cases), the Court can dictate whether and where children can be moved. You can google "Washington State Relocation Act" for more information about the Act. It's under Chapter 26.09 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW).
How can a parent move with the child(ren)?
If the primary parent wants to move with the child(ren), that parent has to let the other parent and anyone else with Court-Ordered time with the children know. How/when this notice of the move is given depends on a number of factors including how long the parent has known about the move, when the move will be taking place, whether d.v. is involved, and numerous other criteria. If the move is outside the child(ren)'s current school district, the other parent can object to the move. There is a presumption that the move will be authorized by the Court, but that's not a guarantee and the Court's decision is based on a number of factors. The Court will also determine what changes should be made to the existing parenting plan in the event that the move is allowed to go forward.
How does the other (non-primary) parent object to the move?
If the other parent objects, that parent must file an objection within 30 days of the date notice is received. That objection serves as a request for a parenting plan modification. The Court will next decide whether the move will be allowed to go forward. The objecting parent cannot simply request that the move not be allowed. A relocation case is typically also parenting plan modification action if the move is outside the child(ren)'s school district.
What if the other (non-primary) parent doesn't object to the relocation?
If that is the case and both parents agree on a new schedule for residential time between them, then the issue is resolved and the moving parent can proceed with relocating with the child(ren). Either parent may present the new Agreed Final Parenting Plan to the Court via the right Petition. On the other hand, if the other parent doesn't object to the move but the parents disagree on a new residential schedule, the primary parent can move with the child(ren) and either parent may file a Court action to modify the parenting plan.
What happens when a parent doesn't follow the terms of the Relocation Act?
If the primary parent fails to give the proper notice to the non-primary parent, or the non-primary parent fails to properly object, this could--and typically does--have very serious ramifications. In the former case, the Court may go so far as to Order the return of the children. In the latter case, the parent could lose the right to object if they miss the deadline for doing so. It's VERY important to get good legal advice about relocation or objecting to relocation as soon as you know you're going to be in that situation.