Successful Trial: Is it a Move Away?

We had a successful trial.  Immediately after separation Mother moves to LA County away from Father in Riverside with their young son.  

The parties were living in Riverside county during marriage.  Mother had a plan that no longer included father.  Father comes home from work and the mother with the assistance of her family had moved out.  Father knew that she was moving out but did not know where she was moving.  Mother had already signed a lease for an apartment in Los Angeles County.  Mother had already filed divorce papers in Los Angeles County the day before.  Father learns of the move to Los Angeles County and ask the court for assistance in Riverside County.  Mother's case in Los Angeles County was dismissed because she did not meet the residency requirements to file there and the case proceeded in Riverside County. 

The court made temporary orders and the case took a couple of months to get to trial.  At trial, we were able to show the court that the mother did not have consent or agreement to move the child out of the county of Riverside.  There was a considerable discussion whether the court should treat this matter as a move away and consider the factors from the cases of Burgess and La Musga.  The court ultimately decided that it was not a move away despite the fact that mother was now living in Long Beach and Father was living in Riverside but simply a determination of who will have primary custody of the young child.  By moving, mother created a false status quo and said that based on what has been happening since she moved that she should have primary custody.  She said that father should only have alternate weekends with there 4 year old child because he lives so far away and that the child would be starting school soon. We successfully argued that the mother should not benefit from her moving away without consent or court order from father and then expect he will have alternate weekends and the court would give her primary custody.  The court looked at past behavior and the reasons for the move and found that mother moved without father's consent. 

The court ordered that Father will have primary custody of the child in Riverside County as he is most likely the parent that will share the child between them.  The takeaway from this trial is that when the relationship is over, people have to carefully decided what to do about their living situation when they have children.  You can not act unilaterally and move a distance away from the other parent and then expect that you will be the one with primary custody.  If you are going to move more than 15-20 minutes away, you better have a court order or an written agreement or most likely you will find yourself in court.  If your intention is to relocate with your child, you MUST ask for permission to relocate.  The court will have to evaluate the factors from the cases and determine what is in the best interest of the child.  In our case, the court determined that the status quo was that the child was living in Riverside County and that father should have primary custody. 

If you are facing a similar situation or are considering a move away, it is best to consult with family law attorneys.  We offer free initial consultations in our offices in Riverside, Temecula and Anaheim.  Please call 888-251-9618 to set up a consultation. 

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