Monday, December 8, 2008

Relocation Act Requires Court to Weigh Pros and Cons of Relocating

A new decision by the state court of appeals, Bay v. Jensen, 37239-8, division II, holds, basically, that the Relocation Act means what it says. The Relocation Act requires the primary residential parent to notify the non-primary residential parent of her or his intended relocation with the children at least sixty days ahead of time. If the non-primary residential parent objects, then the matter goes to a hearing / trial.

At the hearing, the court is supposed to determine whether the detrimental effects of the proposed relocation outweigh the benefits. To do this, the Court is first required to make findings of fact with reference to the eleven different factors enumerated in the statute. Based on these findings, the court is then supposed to make conclusions of law, i.e. this factor points towards granting the proposed relocation; that factor points towards denying the proposed relocation. The findings and conclusions may be written or oral.

In this case, however, the court did not issue written or oral findings that addressed the statutory factors. In fact, it appears as if the court forewent much of any analysis at all and simply ratified everything the relocating party did. This case doesn’t break any new legal ground, although it may be a poster child for how overworked trial court judges are and how they sometimes fall flat on their faces.