Child Custody Agreements: Move Away Cases in California

By: Brinda Gandhi and Khadjiah Kenyatte

When one parent has joint or sole custody of the child(ren) and they want to relocate, a move away case may be triggered. If the move is distant enough to impact the current custody agreement, the parents will need to go to court to get revised custody and visitation agreements. We recommend consulting with your experienced Chugh, LLP attorney for help.


When parents separate or divorce in the state of California, a court will issue custody and visitation arrangements based on the best interest of the child(ren). Usually, custody orders aim to get both parents regular contact with their child(ren).

If the court decides to provide joint custody, the child(ren) will live with both parents as equally as possible according to a set schedule. Under sole custody arrangements, the court awards custody and day-to-day responsibility to one parent. Once custody orders are finalized, they typically cannot be modified unless circumstances change enough to impact the child(ren)’s wellbeing.


When one divorced or separated parent wants to move away with their child(ren), either parent can file a motion with the court to develop new custody orders. Either the parent making the move can file to retain custody of the child(ren) after they move, or the remaining parent can file for a change of custody so that the child(ren) can stay.

Parents are required to mediate the custody issue before a move away case goes to court. They must try to reach an agreement on where the child(ren) will live and parental visitation arrangements. When mediation is unsuccessful, the case will go to court in California.

There are many different factors that the court will consider during a move away case, such as whether the move:

  • Is in the best interest of the child(ren).
  • Aims to negatively impact the child(ren)’s relationship with the non-custodial parent.

It is important to note that the moving parent always has the right to move in move away cases. Courts are instead determining whether the child(ren) should move with that parent or remain with the other parent. If the court deems that the child(ren) should move, they will help create a visitation arrangement.


When parents share joint physical custody and one of the parents wants to relocate with the child(ren), the court will make a new custody decision based on evidence presented. The judge will rule based on preserving the best interests of the child(ren).


The parent with sole custody of the child(ren) has the right to move without modifying the custody order. The parent without custody would need to demonstrate to the court that the move would be detrimental to the child(ren) and that a new custody order is required.

If the non-custodial parent can demonstrate harm to the child(ren) from the move, the court will reconsider the custody order in a hearing. The court may consider evidence including the:

  • Importance of a stable environment to the child(ren).
  • Child(ren)’s age.
  • Distance of the move.
  • Parents’ relationship and communication with each other.
  • Child(ren)’s preference if they are old enough to have an informed one.
  • Reason for the move.

When there is been no custody arrangement and one of the parents wants to relocate with the child(ren), it is imperative to contact an experienced attorney to explore what options are available.


Move away cases can be complex in California. Courts strive to make a decision that is in the best interest of the child(ren), allowing them to maintain their relationships with both parents. The outcome of a move away case can have a substantial impact on either parent’s custody rights. At Chugh, LLP, our specialized family law attorneys can help you understand how relevant laws apply to your unique situation and develop strategies to protect your parental rights.

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