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"Move Away" Changes

The California Commission on the Status of Women, in their Public Policy Agenda and Proposals to the Governor and State Legislature (2007-2008 Session), listed this as a key priority. They want to "Strengthen the right of custodial parents to relocate without the risk of losing custody of children."

But how much more unbalanced can the right to "move away" get? As it stands today, California law is stacked against the non-custodial parent. While nearly every other California law requires the person who wants to change the status quo to bear the burden of proving that the change is the best course of action, this isn't the way it works in "move away" cases. To the contrary, the burden is on the non-custodial parent to show why it isn't in the best interests of the kids to move them away. That burden is hard to overcome and, in fact, in California the right to move away and take the kids has been granted based solely on the convenience of the Mother -- a better job or closer to grandparents -- and places virtually no value on the Father's presence in the children's lives.

Last year, CAFC was victorious for the second time in defeating an attempt to modify the California Supreme Court decision In re Marriage of LaMusga, a crucial case relating to move away of children to other cities or states. Late in the 2006 legislative session, California State Senator Gloria Romero amended her bill (SB 1482) to reverse the LaMusga decision. Because CAFC was monitoring this bill we were able to quickly alert interested groups to the amendment and to organize opposition to the bill.

CAFC's Michael Robinson worked with the California Judges Association (CJA), the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) and family law attorney's with the Family Law Section of the State Bar (FLEXCOM). He joined with Glenn Sacks to organize opposition letters and witnesses to testify against the bill, including the original plaintiff, Gary LaMusga. Faced with this combined opposition Senator Romero dropped the bill just prior to the committee hearing.

It certainly isn't the first time this issue has arisen. In 2004, CAFC was similarly instrumental in defeating SB 730 (Burton), which would have effectively reversed the gains of LaMusga.

Despite CAFC's successes, the "Move Away" issue is certain to surface again and again in coming years. CAFC is working very hard to ensure that California's "Move Away" policies don't become even more inequitable. Based on prior history, we anticipate further attempts to skew California law and policy. Please help us prevent non-custodial parents lose even more rights.