August 2010 Bar Bulletin
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August 2010 Bar Bulletin

Relocating with Children:

A Moving Conundrum

By Lisa Dufour


If your client wants to move to the Florida Keys and live on a boat with his children, can he do so if his parenting plan designates him as the primary residential parent? Does the relocation statute allow this?

What would your client, Sam, have to do to be able to spend the rest of the year drifting on bright, blue water? Of course, he should dock his boat before hurricane season. But can custodial parents move if they want to? Do they have to have a new job at the proposed location to be able to move? What does the court look at when deciding whether or not a custodial parent can move with the children?

The relocation statute is codified in RCW §§ 26.09.405–.560. When it was adopted in 2000, it significantly changed the rights of a custodial parent to be able to move with the children.

If a custodial parent wants to move, either permanently or for a protracted period of time, he now must give notice to the non-custodial parent. The court cannot stop the parent from relocating, but the court does not have to allow the parent to take the children with him when he moves.

So what does this mean for Sam since he has purchased a sailboat and is ready to sail down the coast to warmer waters with his children? Before he can pull out from the dock, he is required to give notice to every other person entitled to court-ordered residential time or visitation with the children.1 The notice has to be by personal service effected at least 60 days before he casts off or no more than five days after he knows the information that the Legislature has decided must be provided before a custodial parent can move.2

The statute is very specific about the information that must be provided to the non-custodial parent in the notice of relocation.3 Besides the reason for the move, the notice must contain the specific street address of the intended new residence (or if unknown, at least the city and state); the new mailing address and telephone number; the name and address of the children’s new school and daycare; the date of the intended relocation; and a proposed parenting plan for visitation with the children after the move.

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