The nationwide trend is for the courts to allow the custodial parent to relocate the children wherever they want. Courts hearing domestic issues - including those here in North Carolina - have the power to stop such moves, but they rarely do. The basis of this failure to act is the “presumption” that the custodial parent always acts in the best interest of the child; e.g. “It is presumed that fit parents act in the best interest of their children.” (Moore v. Moore, 2003 NC COA case).
Bolstering this legal presumption is the position of many social scientists that, expressed in general terms, “what’s good for the custodial parent is good for the child.” Rather than the burden being on your wife to show how the proposed relocation of your daughter is in your daughter’s best interest, you will be required to conclusively demonstrate that the move is not in her best interest. Are these rules proper? To my mind, they’re absurd and do a great disservice to the child. If you go to court, you’ll be allowed to say your piece. The judge might even appear concerned and ask a few on-point questions. But, when all is said and done, the odds are overwhelming that your wife will be allowed to take your daughter to San Diego with her.
Your relationship with your daughter will likely suffer as a result of her relocation. This is of secondary concern to the court. In theory, anyway, your daughter’s “best interest” is the main factor in the court’s decision. Your wife’s right to travel and live where she wants are next in importance. Somewhere way down on the list is your right to a meaningful relationship with your daughter in which you are able to fully discharge your parental duties and in which your daughter is able to benefit from your love, experience, and support. And I’m not speaking of only child support, either.
Sorry to be so pessimistic, but I’ve been in your situation and I speak from first-hand experience. The courts in this state view a non-custodial parent’s primary role as providing child support and little else. Sufficient visitation with your daughter, input into her daily life, and your ability to mentor and parent her are mere afterthoughts. Yes, I know what the statutes say. Yes, I’m familiar with the case law. The problem is that there’s a big disconnect between the lofty ideals ostensibly governing domestic disputes and the implementation of those ideals in the form of a court order. My advice is to do the best you can with the adverse situation that has been thrust upon you. Make sure your daughter knows you care deeply about her and wish she weren’t so far away. As she gets older, she’ll hopefully realize that you weren’t responsible for the distance between you.