Custody and Relocation in Virginia
“If I have sole custody, can the other parent prevent me from relocating with my child?” Possibly, depending on how the move will impact the child and the current visitation schedule with the non-custodial parent. In any custody case, the court will order that both parents provide at least 30 days advanced written notice to the other party and the court prior to any intended move. This time period allows the other parent to contest a move they may disagree with, or that may have a negative impact on the child. Once a parent files their objection to the relocation, it is up to the relocating parent to prove that the move is in the best interests of the child. The court will focus on the following major factors in considering any relocation case: 1) the effect relocation will have on the relationship between the non-custodial parent and the child; 2) how drastically the relocation will effect the non-custodial parent’s visitation with the child; 3) the reasons why the custodial parent wishes to relocate, including contact with extended family, economic stability, and employment opportunities. In cases where the non-custodial parent has little to no involvement with the child, the court is more likely to allow the custodial parent to relocate. Additionally, the court will apply the factors of 20-124.3 to determine whether the move is in the best interests of the child. Those factors include the willingness of each parent to facilitate and support the child’s contact with the other parent, the needs and important relationships of the child, and the role each parent has played in the upbringing and care of the child. If relocation is granted, the court will need to address visitation. Generally, the non-custodial parent’s visitation will increase in duration to account for longer travel time. The court will essentially “make-up” for the lost time of shorter, more frequent visitation periods.