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Child Custody and Relocating Out of State

When relationships fail, there are a lot of decisions to be made. Often the children end up staying with one parent or the other. One parent moves while the other stays in the home. And sometimes…parents relocate out of state. Whether it is due to a new job, or to be closer to family, people move every single day with their children. As a general rule, parents have a fundamental right to make these major life decisions.

However, things get a bit complicated if there is a prior court order. In Virginia, custody orders require that each parent give the other (and the court) 30 days’ notice of their intent to move. This applies whether the move is within state or out of state.

The moving parent will also need to consider the terms of the prior order. If the terms of the order can still be followed, the moving parent can move after providing the 30-days’ notice unless the non-moving parent objects.

If the other parent objects, a hearing will be held in which the moving parent must explain to the court why the move is justified, and how it is in the best interest of the children. Moving out of state may make sense from the parent’s point of view but, the decision comes down to how the move will be best for the children. The court will also consider how the move will affect the relationship between the children and the non-moving parent.

The latter determination depends on the non-moving parent’s current involvement with the children and the role he/she has played. It is often easier for a court to grant permission to move in a case where the non-moving parent is rarely involved.

Other considerations include:

  • Whether the moving parent is the best caretaker for the children

  • Whether the child has visited or become familiarized with the new community

  • The new school system

  • The new neighborhood

  • Whether there is extended family or friends in the new community

  • The ability and willingness of the moving parent to maintain contact and visitation

  • The stability of each parent

  • Benefits to the children

Relocation cases are complicated. If you considering relocating with your children or, fear the other parent will be moving away, you should consult with an experienced attorney about the specific facts of your case.

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