February 4, 2019
Jonathan J. Russell


One issue in family practice that causes substantial alarm, is when one parent threatens to remove one or more children from the area of the original residence to either another state or another distant location, against the will of the other parent.

We receive inquiries on both sides of this issue. On one hand, a parent’s desire to remove the child from an area of violence, hardship and distress, is understandable as they may well see greener pastures, physically, emotionally and financially, in another state or jurisdiction. Perhaps a better job is offered or the encouragement of multiple family members await the children in this new location.

On the other hand, this threat of removal can be a devastating blow to the other parent. The threat manifests cries of panic and injustice. The ability to see their child and to maintain input in decision making could be drastically reduced because of the distance involved in the relocation. Often a discerning eye can see that this threat of removal is really an escape from responsibility, or a grasp for complete control avoiding the consideration of the other parent.

Criminal Offense?

It is first necessary to understand that the mere act of removing a child from the jurisdiction against the will of the other parent, without Court approval, is often a criminal act. Pursuant to applicable law, “A person commits an offense if he knowingly or recklessly takes or entices any child under the age of 18 years from the custody or its parent, guardian or other lawful custodian when he has no privilege to do so.” 18 Pa.C.S.A § 2904 – Interference with Custody of Child. This offense is graded as a felony of the third agree.

So, any parent even considering such a move, must give substantial thought to the consequences of such an attempt.

Legal Process to Remove a Child:

Apart from an emergency situation, a routine vacation, or similar trip, in order to legally remove a child from the original area of jurisdiction, a Petition must be filed with the Court. The other custodial parent has the opportunity either to agree to the relocation, or request a hearing.

The Judges take these petitions very seriously. They understand the implications and the emotional concerns that this creates. The Court considers evidence relating to a series of factors in determining whether it is in the best interest of the child to be removed from the original jurisdiction. These factors include, but are not limited to: the nature, quality and extent of the involvement of the parent proposing the move; the age and developmental needs of the child; the feasability of preserving the relationship with the non moving parent; the motives for the proposed move, and whether the move will improve the general quality of life for the child; and if the child is older, their preference as to whether or not they wish to leave the jurisdiction. 23 Pa.C.S.A § 5337(h).

After the hearing is completed, the Court considers whether the moving party has presented sufficient evidence that the relocation will serve the best interest of the child, and then an Order is entered.

Even if the moving party is successful, they are often surprised at the extent to which the Court requires ongoing contact with the non-moving parent.

Contact us:

Call 610-433-3910 or 215-348-2088 and ask to speak with Tom Blackburn at Drake, Hileman and Davis.