Washington Divorce: What You Need to Know About Relocating with Children and Providing Notice to the Other Parent
Posted on February 1, 2023 by Will Reingold
The Washington State legislature defines a “Parenting Plan” as “a plan for parenting the child, including allocation of parenting functions, which plan is incorporated in any final decree or decree of modification in an action for dissolution of marriage or domestic partnership, declaration of invalidity, or legal separation.” Setting forth various procedures and responsibilities the parents must adhere to in a Parenting Plan ideally reduces family conflict. They also provide additional alternative dispute resolution options that can assist in reducing the number of contested trials in our court system—something that reduces familial strife and saves the parties money in having to go to court. But while most of the language in a Parenting Plan are subject to edits and adjustments by the parties (or their respective attorneys), there is one section of every Parenting Plan that cannot really be tweaked; I’m referring to Section 13, titled “Moving with the Children (Relocation.)”
Anyone with a Parenting Plan should be well acquainted with Section 13. If you are a parent “with majority or substantially equal residential time (at least 45 percent) who wants to move with the children,” then you are required to provide the other parent notice before the move occurs. However, the notice you must provide depends in large part on whether you are moving (1) to a different school district, or (2) within the same school district. Moving within the school district is simple; you still have to let the other parent know of the move, but the notice does not need to be served either personally or by mail. So long as notice is reasonable given, then there is no problem.
Things are markedly different if you are moving outside of the school district. In short, things are much more formal. You must complete a court form titled Notice of Intent to Move with Children, which asks you to describe in detail the reasons you want to move, contact information for you after you move, whether the move should cause a change to the existing Parenting Plan, and whether you timely provided notice to the other parent that you plan to move. And what is the amount of time necessary for notice? Generally, you must serve the other parent at least 60 days before the intended move. There are narrow exceptions to the general rule that are listed in the Parenting Plan, but it is best to give the 60 days’ notice.
Providing notice is crucial to abiding by the Child Relocation Act. In the case of In re Marriage of Raskob, 183 Wn. App. 503 (2014), the mother emailed the father but never provided the statutorily-required notice. The Court of Appeals explained that “[t]he Mother’s relocation ‘notice’ . . . failed to provide the Father with important relevant information such as the reasons for the move, the children’s new school and a proposed new parenting plan.” Id. at 519. To that end, “[i]f this information had been timely provided to the Father, it might have eliminated or reduced the litigation that followed the notice and it might have allowed the parties to try and resolve their differences through the dispute resolution or parenting facility/coach processes already contained in their Parenting Plan.” Id.
Generally, proper notice is by either personal service or mail requiring a return receipt, using the mandatory court forms found on the Washington Courts website. As explained in Raskob, a parent who does not adhere to the relocation notification requirements could be subject to sanctions, including contempt. If you are contemplating a move and you have questions about the proper amount of notice you need to give the other parent, reach out to an attorney at Lasher Holzapfel Sperry & Ebberson for assistance.
 RCW 26.09.004(3)
 RCW 26.09.405 et seq.
 RCW 26.09.440(1)(a).
 RCW 26.09.470(1).