Today I'm making final preparations for a full-day custody relocation hearing scheduled for this coming Monday. So of course, the issue of custody relocation is on my mind.
It's a big topic that deserves, and really requires, more than a single blog post. But I'll cut a slice of the pie and serve it up to you here on the limited issue of notice in custody relocation cases.
Back in 1991, the Pennsylvania Superior Court made a decision in the case of Plowman v. Plowman, which held in part that procedural due process requires that a full evidentiary hearing be held before a child is relocated or within a reasonable time thereafter.
Twenty years later, in 2011, the Pennsylvania legislature codified that legal holding by incorporating it into a new section of the PA Consolidated Statutes, at 23 Pa. C.S. 5337, which addressed custody relocation.
That law, which is still in effect (as of the date of this writing), states clearly that "no relocation shall occur unless every individual who has custody rights to the child consents to the proposed relocation; or the court approves the proposed relocation." (my emphasis).
Relocation itself is defined as "a change in the residence of the child which significantly impairs the ability of a nonrelocating party to exercise custodial rights." 23 Pa. C.S. 5322(a).
The notice requirement from the Plowman decision above was incorporated into the new law as follows:
"Notice, sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, shall be given no later than:
-- the 60th day before the date of proposed relocation; or
-- the 10th day after the date that the individual knows of the relocation, if:
-- the individual did not know and could not reasonably have known of the relocation in sufficient time to comply with the 60-day notice; and
-- it is not reasonably possible to delay the date of relocation so as to comply with the 60-day notice." (my emphasis).
Here in Philadelphia, the Court now always includes a boilerplate provision at the end of every custody order, which states: "Notice of intent to relocate: No party may make a change in the residence of any child which significantly impairs the ability of the other party to exercise custodial rights without first complying with all applicable provisions of 23 Pa. C.S. 5337 and Pa. R.C.P. 1915.17."
So, as one can see by looking back at the timeline above, the issue of notice is required, not just for the heck of it, but to protect the non-relocating party's procedural due process rights. Due process is a legal right embedded in the U.S. Constitution, and thus it is a constitutional right.
For that reason, it is absolutely critical that anyone considering relocating with a minor child first consult with a lawyer to approach the decision and the right way to go about it, according to the law. Call me! 215.732.0101