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Act 112: Section 5337 - Relocation (part 1)

Section 5337 of Act 112 details the procedures, rules and standards involved when a party wishes to "relocate" with a child. Section 5337 represents the single biggest change in custody law under Act 112 and is very detailed. So, we will address the proper procedures in Part 1 and the standards for deciding relocation in Part 2.

Part 1: Procedures

Section 5337 applies to any proposed relocation of a child. Section 5322 defines "relocation" as a "change in a residence of a child which significantly impairs the ability of a non-relocating party to exercise custodial rights".

Unfortunately, deciding what "significantly impairs" a party's custodial rights must often be determined on a case-by-case basis. You should tell your attorney all the facts of your case, so they can decide whether or not it involves a "relocation". Generally, moving a few blocks does not trigger this section, while moving from driving to flying distance does trigger this section.

Under 5337, no relocation shall occur unless the other party consents or the court approves the relocation.

The party proposing relocation must notify the other party at least 60 days in advance, by certified mail, return receipt requested. The 60 day rule does not apply if the relocating party (a) could not have known 60 days out and (b) notifies the other party within 10 days of learning of the relocation and (c) cannot reasonably delay the relocation.

Section 5337 spells out a very detailed list of information that must be provided with the notice of relocation. A party cannot simply state that they wish to move.

Also, a counter-affidavit, warning and proposed new custody schedule must be provided with the relocation notice. The warning must tell the nonrelocating party that they must file an objection with the court within 30 days or else they can no longer object to the relocation.

If no objection is filed within 30 days, the relocating party may move with the child(ren). In that case, the moving party must still file certain documents with the court, including proof of notice and a court order approving the new custody schedule.

If the other party files an objection, they may also seek to temporarily or permanently prevent the relocation. The filed "objection" consists of a completed copy of the counter-affidavit that the relocating party was required to send with their notice.

The non-relocating party can object to the relocation or the revised new custody schedule or both. In that case, a hearing must be held on the contested issue(s). That hearing is supposed to be "expedited" (i.e. happen quickly) and "full" (i.e. a full trial).

However, in emergency circumstances, the court can permit the relocation pending the hearing. Also, the court can order a hearing even if the other party files no objections if the court believes that something is very wrong. A hearing on the court's own objection would be rare.

The standards and factors for relocation will be addressed in part 2 of relocation.