Child Relocation After Non-final Custody Order

In F.T. v. L.J. (2011) 194 Cal.App.4th 1, a father who had previously been granted sole physical custody under a nonfinal custody order sought to relocate his child's residence to Washington. The trial court denied the move-away request, and assumed that the father would remain in San Diego if the court denied the request. The trial court stated: " 'Nobody has informed the court that Father absolutely will move even if the request is denied, so the court will not examine that question at this time and will assume that he is staying in San Diego. Should Father return ex parte and inform the court that he will move regardless, the court will then determine whether a change in custody ... is in Child's best interests.' " (Id. at p. 22.) The appellate court concluded that although the trial court had purported to apply the best interests test in deciding the father's move-away request, the trial court had "misunderstood the proper legal standards to be applied in determining whether Father's move-away motion should be granted" (id. at p. 21) because, among other things, the trial court failed to decide "the ultimate question whether a change in custody would be in Child's best interests were the custodial parent (Father) to move to Washington" (id. at p. 22).