Parenting between two households may become especially complicated if one parent wants to move. When one parent has custody of a child in Pennsylvania, the other parent — the non-custodial parent — typically has certain rights and obligations. When a non-custodial parent relocates without notifying the other parent or relevant agencies of his change of address, those obligations do not change. In fact, depending on the circumstances, a parent who leaves for a prolonged period of time without giving notice may risk a child neglect case or lose parental rights through an involuntary termination.
Notice Requirements for Relocation
Pennsylvania laws regarding parental relocation focus on moving with the children. State law requires notice to the other parent when a parent with custodial rights would like to move with the child. Relocation laws do not necessarily cover a non-custodial parent with whom the child does not live. However, if the non-custodial parent would like to move but continue to have court-ordered visitation with the child, the non-custodial parent may need to notify the other parent and request a modification from the court if the relocation would significantly change the circumstances of the visits.
Child Support Obligation
A child support obligation doesn't end when the non-custodial parent moves away. The Pennsylvania Child Support Program, the state agency overseeing child support, recommends that parents update their addresses online after moving or contact the Domestic Relations Section serving the county where they have child support obligations to update their addresses. If a non-custodial parent does not notify the state with an updated address, the custodial parent may ask the agency to check the State Parent Locate System and the Federal Parent Locate System to locate the missing parent. In addition, if the non-custodial parent fails to pay court-ordered child support, the state agency may enforce the court order through a mandatory withholding of payments from the parent's wages. Pennsylvania support laws also allow tax refund intercepts, driver's license suspensions, credit reporting and property liens, among other options, to punish non-custodial parents who owe past-due child support.
If a non-custodial parent moves without notifying the other parent, the court or a state agency, there may be legal consequences. The court may consider your lack of notice when deciding whether to allow you to relocate or obtain custody. You may be required to pay the custodial parent's legal fees in contesting your relocation. The court may also find you in contempt, leading to additional penalties.
Termination of Parental Rights
In a case for an involuntary termination of parental rights, a Pennsylvania state court decides whether to end a parent-child relationship permanently. After a termination, the parent no longer has any legal ties to the child. If a non-custodial parent does not have custody of the child because the state's child welfare agency has removed the child from the parent's care, the parent's absence and lack of notification about his whereabouts may contribute to grounds for an involuntary termination of parental rights. In Pennsylvania, the state can consider a termination of parental rights if the conditions which led to the child's removal from the parent's home have not improved within 12 months of the date of removal. Alternatively, child neglect or at least 6 months of the parent's refusal to perform parental duties can result in a termination of parental rights.
References & Resources
- Pennsylvania Bar Association: Child Custody
- Pennsylvania General Assembly: Consolidated Statutes of Pennsylvania: Title 23 - Domestic Relations: Section 5337
- PALawHelp.org: Child Support
- Pennsylvania Child Support Program: Frequently Asked Questions
- National District Attorneys Association: Child Neglect & Abandonment State Statutes
- Child Welfare Information Gateway: Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect
- Child Welfare Information Gateway: Grounds for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights
- North Penn Legal Services: Child Support
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