Notice must be given when the primary residential parent intends to relocate the child outside of the school district. There is a presumption that the primary parent can relocate, however, that presumption can be rebutted. Preparation of the case revolves around these 11 factors in RCW 26.09.520:
The person proposing to relocate with the child shall provide his or her reasons for the intended relocation. There is a rebuttable presumption that the intended relocation of the child will be permitted. A person entitled to object to the intended relocation of the child may rebut the presumption by demonstrating that the detrimental effect of the relocation outweighs the benefit of the change to the child and the relocating person, based upon the following factors. The factors listed in this section are not weighted. No inference is to be drawn from the order in which the following factors are listed:
(1) The relative strength, nature, quality, extent of involvement, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent, siblings, and other significant persons in the child’s life;
(2) Prior agreements of the parties;
(3) Whether disrupting the contact between the child and the person seeking relocation would be more detrimental to the child than disrupting contact between the child and the person objecting to the relocation;
(4) Whether either parent or a person entitled to residential time with the child is subject to limitations under RCW 26.09.191;
(5) The reasons of each person for seeking or opposing the relocation and the good faith of each of the parties in requesting or opposing the relocation;
(6) The age, developmental stage, and needs of the child, and the likely impact the relocation or its prevention will have on the child’s physical, educational, and emotional development, taking into consideration any special needs of the child;
(7) The quality of life, resources, and opportunities available to the child and to the relocating party in the current and proposed geographic locations;
(8) The availability of alternative arrangements to foster and continue the child’s relationship with and access to the other parent;
(9) The alternatives to relocation and whether it is feasible and desirable for the other party to relocate also;
(10) The financial impact and logistics of the relocation or its prevention; and
(11) For a temporary order, the amount of time before a final decision can be made at trial.
The presumption that a parent may relocate has recently been redefined by the statute. RCW 26.09.525 provides that:
(1) If the person proposing relocation of a child has substantially equal residential time:
(a) The presumption in RCW 26.09.520 does not apply; and
(b) In determining whether to restrict a parent’s right to relocate with a child or in determining a modification of the court order as defined in RCW 26.09.410 based on the proposed relocation, the court shall make a determination in the best interests of the child considering the factors set forth in RCW 26.09.520.
(2) For the purposes of this section and RCW 26.09.430, “substantially equal residential time” includes arrangements in which forty-five percent or more of the child’s residential time is spent with each parent. In determining the percentage, the court must (a) consider only time spent with parents and not any time ordered for nonparents under chapter 26.11 RCW; and (b) base its determination on the amount of time designated in the court order unless: (i) There has been an ongoing pattern of substantial deviation from the residential schedule; (ii) both parents have agreed to the deviation; and (iii) the deviation is not based on circumstances that are beyond either parent’s ability to control.
A substantial amount of evidence must quickly be obtained in these cases as they are given a priority by the court. Many of these cases also go all the way to a contested trial as the relocation can provide an all-or-nothing outcome for the left behind parent. A competent attorney should be retained immediately to assist in these cases.