Child Custody Relocation Laws and Winning a Petition in Virginia
Child custody relocation battles are some of the most frequently litigated court cases. Understandably, a large distance between two homes can be frustrating. So, what are the child custody relocation laws in Virginia?
Child Custody Relocation Laws in Virginia
Often, long-distance moves are unavoidable. If this move is part of the initial divorce plans, the Court determines how factors concerning the best interests of the child would apply to a relocation issue.
However, if a custody order already exists, the parent seeking relocation must give evidence of a change in circumstances and show that the move would be in the best interests of the child. Generally, a 30-day notice is required. While the court cannot prevent the parent from relocating, it can prevent the moving parent from taking a child with him/her.
A parent who seeks to relocate with a child must show that the move will not damage the child’s relationship with the parent who is not moving and also show that the move will benefit the child, not just the moving parent. The proof can seem contradictory though. For example, if the non-moving parent has a disinterested or rarely involved role, the Court often regards relocation as a minor change.
However, if the non-moving parent is very involved and has a close relationship with the child, the Court may still see the relocation as a minor change because the relationship is strong enough to withstand the distance.
Changes to Visitation Periods
When a relocation is granted, particularly for long distances, the Court may give the other parent less frequent, but longer, visitation periods. So, instead of two weekends per month, a parent might be granted most or all of major time-off-school period or most of the summer break.
The Court has discretion in determining which parent will be responsible for making travel arrangements. For example, the court may allow one party to relocate with a child but require the same party to pay for all travel related costs for visitation, including airfare.
Relocation Considerations for Child Custody
What determines a child’s “best interests” when it comes to relocation? The court must consider all points and weigh the factors in Virginia Code Section 20-124.3. The following is a list of reasons that Virginia Courts have cited for allowing children to relocate:
- Child’s familiarity with the new community, including friends or relatives and any previous visits
- Benefit of keeping a child with the main caretaker
- Benefits to the child if a lower cost of living increases resources for the relocating parent
- Anxiety of a child due to week on or off schedule
- Ability of the relocating parent to shift from working full time to staying at home and becoming more available to the child
- Ability of the other parent to maintain long-distance visits because of job flexibility and financial resources
- Failing finances that would ultimately force the relocating parent into constant moves
- Inability of the other parent to provide stability
Courts have allowed relocations for several reasons. This decision should only be made after serious financial and legal considerations. Parents are encouraged to create a moving plan with the aid of an attorney to maximize the chances of approval by the Court. This also helps the child maintain a close relationship with and benefit from both parents.
Child Custody Relocation Laws in Virginia
If you are considering a relocation and have a child custody agreement, you will need the expertise of a family lawyer to ensure that you are presenting your case in the most favorable light possible. Contact the law office of Grenadier, Duffett, Levi, Winkler & Rubin, PC today to speak to an attorney about your case.
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