Another important recent decision involving jurisdiction in family law court in California is the case of Mark T. v Jamie Z (2011 194 CA4th 1115).  In this case, the appellate court ruled that a trial court, in denying a mother’s request to relocate out of state with the parties’ Child, abused its discretion by misapplying the pertinent legal standards, because, although it purported to consider the child’s best interest, it failed to take into account that the parent would actually move regardless of how the court ruled.

The facts of the case were that after the Child’s paternity was established, the trial court made a temporary custody order on the basis of the parties’ stipulated time-sharing arrangement.  Before the court had entered a permanent order, the Mother of the Child brought an OSC seeking to move with Child to Minnesota so that they would have her family’s “financial and emotional support.”

When making its permanent order, the trial court adopted the recommendations of the evaluating psychologist whom both parties agreed would evaluate them.  However, in making its permanent order (67 percent timeshare for mother, 33 percent for father), apparently the trial court assumed Mother would not otherwise move to Minnesota even if relocation was denied by the court.  Mother appealed.

In reversing the trial court’s order, the court of appeal held that the trial court had abused its discretion by misapplying the pertinent legal standards in the context of a relocation request.  When a parent who shares joint physical custody of a child requests authorization to relocate with a Child in the context of an initial custody determination, it must decide de novo what physical custody arrangement would be in the Child’s best interests.

The appellate court further ruled that the trial court must also proceed on the assumption that the parent will actually move, regardless of how the court rules on the parent’s request, and then fashion a custody order that is in the Child’s best interest.  Thus, the appellate court remanded the case for reconsideration in light of Mother’s proposed move.

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