Once the dust has settled after a custody trial or divorce, one of the first questions I am frequently asked is: Can I move? The answer, unfortunately, is not always simple. The ability to move depends on the reasons provided, the relationships between each parent and the child, the distance involved, and several other factors.
Notice is Required
In any case involving custody, the court will require a minimum of 30 days advance written notice prior to any relocation pursuant to Virginia Code Section 20-124.5. In some situations, more notice may be required. For example, parties who reach a settlement agreement may add additional time requirements or limitations on the ability to relocate.
The notice requirement is designed to protect parents that object to the relocation and provide an opportunity for the court to make a determination regarding the move. Whether or not the minor child will be allowed to move with the parent is determined according to the best interests of the child.
Both the custodial and noncustodial parent must provide notice prior to any relocation, even if the move is only a short distance. Any change in a parent’s residence can have an impact on the parties’ ability to coordinate visitation for the child.
If a custodial parent wishes to relocate with the child, they will have to demonstrate that the move is in the child’s best interests. In addition, the court will focus on the following factors:
1) The effect relocation will have on the relationship between the noncustodial parent and the child;
2) How drastically the relocation will impact the noncustodial parent’s visitation with the child;
3) The reasons for the move, including contact with extended family, economic stability, and employment opportunities.
Best Interest of the Child
If the move is only for a short distance and visitation can still be done on the same schedule, it’s unlikely the court will deny the relocation. However, any move that will require a change to the visitation schedule will require a higher burden to show that the move is in the child’s best interests under 20-124.3. Among the factors the court will consider are 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.
No relocation case is straightforward and any missed deadline can have a serious impact on your custodial rights.
Melone Hatley is a general practice law firm and serves Virginia Beach and the Northern Virginia area. Our practice areas include Family Law, Divorce and Special Needs Children, Traffic Ticket Defense, DUI/DWI Defense, and Trust and Estate Law. Our philosophy is to provide all of our clients with the highest quality legal representation, innovative legal solutions, and unsurpassed dedication to customer service. Through our high standards, we strive to be a trusted resource to our clients.
We know from experience that a successful attorney-client relationship depends on our ability to understand your needs and objectives. For more information about relocation cases, contact our office today at 703.995.9900 in Northern Virginia or 757.296.0580 in Virginia Beach,or visit our website: www.MeloneLawPC.com.