Pennsylvania Custody Laws for Moving Out of State

By Leonard Dozier

Raising a child often means relocating to another state for better work, educational or cultural opportunities.However, the need for relocation is a secondary matter in states such as Pennsylvania where child custody laws specifically address a noncustodial parent's right to fair visitation and access to her child. Thus, in Pennsylvania, a custodial parent's right to relocate a child is dependent upon the noncustodial parent's consent, approval from the court and even the place of relocation.

Noncustodial Parent's Consent

Under Pennsylvania law, parents who relocate their children without the consent of the noncustodial parent can face abduction charges. This law supports the federally mandated Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980, which states that only a child's home state can decide her custody status. According to Avallone Law Associates, a Pennsylvania family law firm, the law also protects noncustodial parents' rights when the custodial parent wants to relocate the child out of spite. A noncustodial parent can give his consent in writing without court intervention. However, it is important that consent is given at an evidentiary hearing called a "Plowman Hearing." According to the rules of the hearing, relocation must serve the best interest of the child, relocation cannot be a measure to separate the child from the other parent, and the noncustodial parent must be able to maintain his relationship with his child.

Read More: Can a Noncustodial Parent Lose Visitation for Nonpayment of Child Support?

Court Approval

A parent with primary physical custody who wishes to relocate her child must file a relocation petition. A relocation petition, or "Plowman Petition," is designed to modify the existing child custody arrangement. Under the petition, the noncustodial parent may be granted custody for the summer, holiday or school breaks, or both to offset the visitation time missed because of the relocation. Moreover, the court typically does not allow a relocation based on remarriage or a new job. However, it may grant relocation if there are a substantial amount of family members in another state.

Place of Relocation

Parents wishing to relocate their child from Pennsylvania to another state have one consideration: distance. Distances of more than 50 or 70 miles may require that custodial parents file a relocation petition, especially if the distance would present a hardship for the noncustodial parent to have a relationship with the child. As an example, a relocation from Pennsylvania to New Jersey may not require a hearing if the noncustodial parent can travel reasonably and consistently without hardship. Sometimes, in rare cases, a custodial parent may wish to relocate her child out of the country. In this instance, the Pennsylvania courts then seek to ascertain that the country adheres to the Hague Convention that acknowledges U..S. custody laws under international treaty.