Shalom Israel!

That’s what a mother with custody must be saying after the California Court of Appeal this week allowed her to relocate from California to Israel with her eight-year-old son.

This saga has many twists and turns that are highlighted in a 17 page opinion published Wednesday in the case of J.M. v. G.H. However, the main facts are as follows:  on March 2, 2012, after 12 days of trial, the trial court issued a ruling, giving the mother and father joint legal and physical custody of the boy, and allowing the mother to relocate with the son to Israel during the school year but giving the father visitation during most of the summer and longer school holidays, as well as during any visits in Israel.

The father appealed for a number of reasons, but one of them was that the trial judge did not require the mother to post a “bond” as a condition of her being able to relocate with the child.  The idea of a bond came up in the seminal case of Marriage of Condon, which was decided in 1998.  In the Condon case, the Court of Appeal had said that allowing a parent to relocate with a child or children to a foreign country as opposed to someplace else in the United states created enforceability problems and therefore a trial court must include the posting of an adequate monetary bond within the relocating parent’s means so that he or she would have an incentive, even after leaving California, to obey the terms of visitation and other court orders.

But the court in the J.M. case said the trial judge had found that the mother did not have adequate resources to establish a bond.  The appeals court also said that the trial court had established alternate means to give the order teeth.  Specifically, the judge had said that 15 days after the dad filed a declaration contending that the mother violated any custody order, “all child support would be deposited into a trust account established and owned by (the father) with (the mother) as a beneficiary, to be used to pay for the costs of any litigation; anything left over would be paid to (the mother)”.  Other orders were made as well, including registering the judgment with the Israeli court system and filing proof of that registration in California.

The Court of Appeal also said that in the Condon case, which involved a move-away to Australia, the relocating parent, also a mother, was more of a flight risk because she had once moved the children to France and had defied an earlier court order by removing the children to Australia and not allowing any acess to the father.

Interestingly, this is the second published move-away case since Condon involving Israel.  The other case was a 2003 decision, again involving the mother, called In re Marriage of Abargil.

The J.M. case was decided by the Court of Appeal in Los Angeles County, but in California, decisions of the Court of Appeal are binding on all trial courts in the state in most cases, regardless of where the appeals court is located.