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Know the Laws: Washington

UPDATED August 10, 2017

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WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get help from an organization in your area before proceeding with court action.  Go to our WA Where to Find Help page to find contact information for legal services programs.

Relocating with your child

back to topIf there is a parenting plan in place, can I relocate with my child?

There are different procedures to follow if you are planning to move somewhere that keeps your child within the same school district or if you plan to move somewhere that would change your child's school district.

Moving within the same school district
If you plan to move to someplace within your child's same school district (of where s/he currently lives for the majority of the time), you do not have to follow all of the notification steps referred to below.  Instead, you can give "actual notice" by any reasonable means to everyone entitled to residential time or visitation with the child under a court order.  The other parent (or other person with court-ordered visitation) has the right to file to try to modify the order if s/he wishes to do so but there isn't a formal notice of objection to the move that s/he could file.*

Moving to somewhere outside of the child's school district
If your child lives with you a majority of the time and you are looking to relocate with your child outside of your child's school district, you have to give notice of your intended (planned) move to every other person who is entitled to residential time or visitation with the child under the court order.  Each person has the right to file an objection with the court to try to stop the move and serve it upon you within 30 days (or 33 days, if served by mail) of when the person received the notice of your intended move.**  If the other parent does not object within the timeframe allowed, you may be able to move without further court action - you can read the law on our WA Statutes page - see section 26.09.500.  There is very specific information that must be included in the notice and requirements on how to serve the notice. Go to What type of notice do I have to give to the other parent if I want to relocate out of my child's school district?

Note: Unless you have a court order saying otherwise, a parent who is intending to move cannot move the child's principal residence during the time that the other parent has to object to the notice (33 days from when s/he received your notice).  Additionally, if the other parent asks for a hearing, which is scheduled for after that timeframe, you cannot move your child's principal residence while awaiting that hearing.***

For more information, the Northwest Women’s Law Center has the following self-help packets about relocation, which you may find useful: Self-Help Guide for Getting an Ex Parte Order to Move with Your Children; Self-Help Guide to Following Washington's Relocation Law; and Questions and Answers about Washington's Relocation Law.

* R.C.W. § 26.09.450
** R.C.W. §§ 26.09.430, 26.09.480(1)
*** R.C.W. § 26.09.480(2)

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back to topWhat type of notice do I have to give the other parent if I want to relocate out of my child's school district?

There is very specific information that must be included in the notice of intended relocation. You can read about what needs to be included in the notice by going to our WA Statutes page and reading section 26.09.440 of the law, sub-sections (2)(a) and (2)(b). 

There are also specific requirements about how the notice must be served.  The notice of the intended relocation, with all of the required information, must be:

  1. given by personal service or any form of mail requiring a return receipt to each person who should be given notice; and
  2. given:
    • at least 60 days before the date of the intended relocation of the child; or
    • if it is not possible to give at least 60 days' notice because you did not know (and could not reasonably have known) the information that you have to provide in the notice and it is not reasonable to delay the relocation, you must give the notice no more than 5 days after you know the required information.*

Note: There are exceptions to the notice requirements if you are entering a domestic violence shelter or if you are relocating to avoid a clear, immediate, and unreasonable risk to the health or safety of you or your child - in these cases, notice may be delayed for twenty-one days.  Also, if you believe that the health or safety of you or your child would be unreasonably put at risk by giving notice or by revealing certain information in the notice, you can file for an ex parte hearing and the judge may waive all or part of the notice requirements.  "Ex parte" means that the judge can hold a hearing or issue an order without the other party having prior notice or being in court.  If you are in the Address Confidentiality Program or you have a court order that allows you to withhold some or all of the information in the notice, you may not have to provide the confidential or protected information in the notice.** 

For information on any forms you may need to file to relocate or to object to a relocation, you may want to talk to a lawyer or ask the court clerk. You can find legal referrals on our WA Finding a Lawyer page and court contact information on our WA Courthouse Locations page.

For more information, the Northwest Women’s Law Center has the following self-help packets about relocation, which you may find useful: Self-Help Guide for Getting an Ex Parte Order to Move with Your Children; Self-Help Guide to Following Washington's Relocation Law; and Questions and Answers about Washington's Relocation Law.

* R.C.W. § 26.09.440(1)
** R.C.W. § 26.09.460(1)-(4)

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back to topWhat happens if I don't give notice before I move?

If you don't provide the required notice, you can be subject to sanctions (punishment), including being held in contempt of court.  Even if you don't provide the proper notice, the other parent can still file an objection to the intended relocation of the child in court just as s/he could do if you do give proper notice.*

* R.C.W. § 26.09.470(1),(3)

Did you find this information helpful?

WomensLaw.org would like to thank the Northwest Women's Law Center for their help with this material.

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