Do I need permission to move with my children? The answer is it depends on whether or not your move is considered a relocation under Pennsylvania law.
In Pennsylvania, a relocation is a “change in residence of the child which significantly impairs the ability of the nonrelocating party to exercise custodial rights.” 23 Pa. C.S.A. Section 5322.
The law is clear that a parent may not relocate with his/her children without first obtaining permission from the other parent and/or the Court. See 23 Pa. C.S.A. Section 5337. This is true regardless of whether there is an existing custody order in place.
A move, on the other hand, is presumably one in which the other parent’s custodial rights would not be significantly impaired by the change, and does not require prior approval from the other party or the Court.
The difference between a relocation and a move is not always clear and varies from case to case. It is therefore prudent to consult an experienced family law attorney before leaving the area with your children.
This is particularly important because if your move does constitute a relocation, and the other party does not agree, then there are certain rules that must be followed before the relocation will be heard by the Court.
For example, the relocating party must file and serve a Notice of Relocation and Counter-Affidavit on the other party in accordance with the Rules of Civil Procedure. Once served, the non-relocating party must file the Counter-Affidavit with the Court. If the other party fails to timely file the Counter-Affidavit, then the relocating party may proceed with the move and later petition the Court to confirm the relocation. If the other party timely files the Counter-Affidavit, however, then further steps need to be taken to list the matter for Court.
This process can be confusing, complicated, and costly without guidance. Failure to follow the appropriate rules may significantly delay or even halt the relocating parent’s intended move. Therefore, it is very important to make sure all necessary steps are followed to stream-line the process and to achieve the best result.