Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Friday, March 17, 2006

Case Law Development: Washington State Upholds Constitutionality of Relocation Statute

The Washington Court of Appeals covers all the constitutional basis in reviewing a father's challenges to that state's relocation statute. Father, who had primary custody of child, was denied his motion to relocate.  He challenged the relocation statute as violating a fit custodial parent's fundamental right to autonomy in child-rearing decisions, citing Troxel.   The court found that, unlike the Troxel line of cases, relocation decisions involve interference with residential or visitation time that the court has already found to serve the best interest of the child. Also, unlike the statutes in question in Troxel, the relocation statute limits the third parties whose objections to the relocation require hearing.  Finally,the relocation statutes establish a rebuttable presumption that the relocation will be allowed. "In this way, the statute incorporates the presumption that a fit parent will act in the best interest of the child. Moreover, the objecting person has the burden of overcoming this presumption and, to succeed, the objecting person must show that the detrimental effect of the relocation upon the child outweighs the benefit of change to the child and the relocating parent."   Accordingly the court concluded there was no basis for constitutional attack on interference with a fit parent's decisionmaking.

Father also argued that the statute violated the Equal Protection Clause, the Commerce Clause, the right to privacy in family matters, and the freedom to travel as protected by the Due Process Clause. The court likewise rejected these arguments, finding that the relocation statute was justified under the state's exercise of its parens patriae authority and did not unduly infringe upon any of these asserted interests.  The court affirmed the decision of the trial court.

Momb v. Ragone, 2006 Wash. App. LEXIS 425 (March 14, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited March 17, 2006 bgf)

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