Military Blended Family: Child Custody in Washington State

Posted by Alesha Struthers Oct 11, 2022

Military Blended Family: Child Custody in Washington State 

Remarriage after a divorce is common. With military bases in Snohomish County, marrying someone in the military is not uncommon. What do you do when your new spouse gets orders to another base, and you have a child and parenting plan  in place? What options do you have? What steps do you need to take to move with your child legally?

Military orders  can be nerve-racking but add in the additional worry about your existing parenting plan, and you have more stress that you didn't anticipate.

In this blog, we discuss what steps to take and how to navigate the court system, including how to petition Washington State Family Court to allow you to move. Even if your move isn't military-related and you are moving due to better opportunities, we hope this blog helps answer some of your most common questions about moving when there is a parenting plan.

This article is intended for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice. If you need legal advice on moving out of state when you have a parenting plans in Washington state, The Law Offices of Alesha Struthers offers free consultations.

The Child Relocation Act in Washington State

The first step to move out of state with a parenting plan  in place is to determine if the  applies to you. To make this determination, there are a few questions to ask:

  • Did your divorce take place in Washington state?
  • Are you moving within the same school district?
  • Is it a short-term move?
  • Do you have less than 45% of the parenting time?

If any of these are true for you, you must follow the rules laid out by the Child Relocation Act. This Act states that you must notify the other parent of your intent to move with ample time for them to dispute your petition. If they do not respond, or if they okay the move, you are legally able to move with your minor child. If, however, they do respond and wish to prevent your move, you must go to mediation, and possibly to trial. Even if you do not have a parenting plan, you still must follow these steps.

First Step to Moving: Notice of Relocation

The first step to moving when a child from a previous marriage or relationship is to let the other parent know about your intention to move. This is done by mailing a notice of relocation  at least 60 days prior to the intended move. This provides any parent entitled to visitation with the child time to object.

This notice must include the new address, phone number, and the reason for the move. In addition, you must include a mailing address and the new school information.

Include a New Proposed Parenting Plan 

When you mail the notice of relocation, you need to file it and the new proposed parenting plan  with the Washington State Family Court . Both documents must be filed in the same county where your divorce and parenting plan were finalized. The new proposed parenting plan  must include the new visitation proposal . However, the response can be filed in a different county. The opposing parent must file their suggested parenting plan  as a foreign order and request a case number in that county.

Related: Beginner's Guide: Filing Parenting Plan in Washington State

The Other Parent Opposed Your Move, What Now?

If the other parent objects to your proposed move, it begins a relocation action. This is a 5 to 6-step process, which is easier to manage with a skilled Washington state family law attorney who can help you navigate the process and improve the likelihood of receiving a favorable outcome. The Law Offices of Alesha Struthers can help you. Contact us for a free initial consultation.

Step One: Receive a Temporary Order

This step is optional and will not always occur. A temporary order stops you from moving without going to court. A court date must be set within 15 days of this order.

Step Two: Response to Objection

This step is completed if they formally respond to your motion to move by objection. This response must be filed within 20 days of their objection. Failing to file this in time prevents you from participating in the relocation action. This may result in a default order  for the opposing parent.

Step Three: Discovery

This is may or may not occur, depending on whether it seems like your relocation action is headed to the courtroom. During discovery, each parent gives information pertaining to the case to the other side. This allows each side to see the facts and evidence and allows them to build their case.

Step Four: Request a Trial Date

Do not request a trial date until you are ready to go to trial (if it becomes necessary). Trial dates in a relocation action are often set within a month of the request because of their nature. And thanks to the next step.

Step Five: Mediation

You and the other parent will go back to mediation in the hopes that the two of you can come to an agreement before trial. During mediation, you will negotiate a new parenting plan  and hopefully agree on the proposed move.

Step Six: Trial

If you were unable to come to an agreement during mediation, the judge will hear each parent's evidence and reason for the request and weigh it against the objection. At this point, the decision will be up to the judge.

How Does Parenting Time Play into Relocation Requests?

If you have more than 55% of the parenting time and can show valid reasons for your request to move, the judge may very well grant your request even if the other parent opposes. Valid reasons include moving for military orders, better job opportunities, better schools, or even better housing options. However, requesting a move for the sole purpose of limiting the contact of the other parent and your child is not a valid reason to move. That sort of reasoning would be denied.

What If the Other Parent Doesn't Respond to Your Notice to Relocate?

If you followed the legal steps to request permission to move and the other parent fails to respond, Washington state law  provides a timeline for your situation. You can move and start following your new proposed parenting plan  after 30 days if they have not responded. While this is allowed, it is not advised. Seek legal advice before taking this option.

Another option after 30 days is requesting an ex parte order in Washington state. This is a court order granting your relocation without needing the other parent to appear in court.

If you find yourself in this situation, seek legal counsel before moving to prevent any complications because of the move. The Law Offices of Alesha Struthers can help you determine the best course of action. Contact us today for your free initial consultation.

Related: 4 Top Reasons to Modify a Parenting Plan in Washington

What if You Fail to Follow the Proper Steps?

If you fail to follow these steps, you can be forced to move back, your child may be required to move to the other parent's home, you could be ordered to pay the other parent's court and attorney fees, and you may be held in contempt of court.

The process of requesting permission to relocate can be daunting. Hiring an experienced attorney can help ensure you do everything correctly, dotting every I and crossing every T.

Free Consult: The Law Offices of Alesha Struthers

When dealing with moving and a new parenting plan, things can get confusing and overwhelming. The Law Offices of Alesha Struthers can help you! Ms. Struthers is skilled at navigating family law issues  and fights to get the result that her clients need. Contact her law office today for your free initial consultation!

Disclaimer: This publication is not legal advice. It is intended as legal information only. For legal advice specific to your needs, contact the Law Offices of Alesha Struthers, PS at 800-972-0411.

Posted October 2022.