Case Notes: Custody relocation

On January 24th, 2011, Pennsylvania's stringent new relocation law went into effect. The relocation statute has "factors" that the court must consider when deciding whether to permit a parent to relocate with the children.

The Superior Court and many local courts have now faced cases where they must interpret the relocation factors set forth by the law. This post will deal with an Allegheny County Court applying the new relocation factors in deciding whether to permit a relocation..

In Kercher v. Kercher, FD-10-004676, Allegheny C.P. (June 25, 2012), Mother unilaterally moved the children from Allegheny County to New Castle, Pennsylvania. Under the statute, Mother is required to give Father notice allowing him to contest the move. Father filed an emergency motion to protest the move, and the case was scheduled for a custody and relocation trial.

The factors that the court takes into account when determining whether relocation is in the best interest of the child are:

  1. Relationship with parents - The quality, involvment, and nature of the child's connection with the relocating parent, in addition to the child's parent that is not relocating, any siblings in question, and/or any significant individual in the child's life. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  2. Age and development - The child's needs, development, and age are considered as relocating could have an effect on a child's education, emotional, and physical growth. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  3. Maintaining relationship - The reality of preserving a child's relationship with the non-relocating parent is also taken into account. Considering custody, logistics, and finances. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  4. Preference - A child's parent and location preference is also taken into account, considering maturity and age of the child. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  5. Alienation - A Behavioral history of either parent that activley works to complicate the relationship a child has with the other parent. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  6. Quality of Parent Life - Determining if relocating could better a child's emotional, financial, educational or any other aspect that relates to quality of life. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  7. Quality of Child's Life - Determining if relocating could better a party's emotional, financial, educational or any other aspect that relates to quality of life.. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  8. Reasons - The prupose behind each party's request or oppsition regarding a proposed relocation. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  9. Abuse - A history of abuse by a member of the household that can put the child or abused individual in continuous harm. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  10. Everything else - Other aspects that could affect the child's best interest.

In Kercher, the PA Superior Court found that Father and his family had a much stronger relationship and involvement with the children. Also, that the Allegheny county schools would better serve the child since he had attended school there previously and was bullied in his new school. Because Mother refused to relocate from New Castle back to Allegheny County, the parties could not feasibly share custody. As such, the court awarded primary custody to Father.

The new relocation statute has very stringent procedural requirements. If you have children and are planning to move, you should consult with an attorney before taking any steps. Look for legal counsel that concentrates on family law to get the best expertise and counsel.