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Relocation and Child Custody


Natalie Portman and Benjamin Millepied have, reportedly, finalized their divorce after a very public scandal rocked their eleven-year marriage. The pair had been married for nearly twelve years, share two children together, and had been living in France.

No report has been made of either party seeking to move away from the area in which the couple lived together. However, many have questions what such a move would look like considering they have young children.

California sees a family move as a major life decision, and relocation can be one of the most challenging issues parents can face in the midst of custody disputes. This article will discuss how relocation can affect child custody and some important factors that come into play.

California Legal Requirements 

Every state has its own rules surrounding what is required before a parent can move out of the area – particularly out of the state or country. The custodial parent should provide the non-custodial parent with a written notice that discusses the proposed relocation of themselves and the children. The notice should include the proposed relocation spot as well as the reasons and justifications for the relocation. The non-custodial parent will then respond to the notice with concerns or objections.

Do not underestimate the importance of providing this notice to the non-custodial parent. Failure to provide proper notice of a move/relocation can have serious consequences, which may include unwanted changes in your custody orders.

Child’s Best Interest 

As always, when the courts are brought in to consider a relocation request, it can be hard to predict what the outcome will be. However, the child’s best interest will always be first and foremost on the court’s mind. California courts consider a variety of factors in deciding what is in the best interest of the child, to include the impact of the move on the child’s routine, and the continuing relationship the child will or will not have with both of their parents as a result of the move. The court will also consider the availability of alternative means of communication, as well as the reasons for the proposed relocation.

Cases of Joint Custody 

Joint custody situations will generally have a harder time with issues of relocation. Generally speaking, one parent cannot relocate their child without the other parent’s consent or a court order.


When possible, the courts prefer to allow a child’s parents to come to a custody arrangement that works for themselves and their children. Parents are encouraged to talk to each other and come to a solution can end in an agreement they are both more happy with in the end. Mediation services are valuable in these situations as they can provide a more regulated forum to have these discussions. While litigation is sometimes necessary, outcomes can be unpredictable for unrepresented parents. Speaking with an experienced child custody attorney can help you to consider your options and chart a course of action that is most appropriate for your own specific circumstances.

Contact Cardwell, Steigerwald Young

The experienced San Francisco child custody lawyers at Cardwell, Steigerwald Young LLP can help you navigate through any twist and turns in your own child custody matter. Contact our office today.




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