Often times following a divorce or bad breakup one or both of the parties wants to move away. Maybe you want to live closer to family or received an offer for a nicer job, or maybe the cost of living is better across state lines. If you have minor children with your ex, however, you can’t simply pack-up and ship out with the kids. With more and more parents finding the need to move, custodial parent relocation is steadily becoming a hot issue in child custody cases.
The easiest way to move with your kids is to reach a mutual agreement with your ex. Whether your child custody arrangements were made pursuant to a decree of divorce or as an independent custody action, you and your ex can petition a judge to enter an agreed order permitting relocation of the children.
Objection to Relocation
More commonly, your ex will object to the relocation of the children. If the objection occurs during divorce or child custody proceedings, the issue will be resolved by the court when it enters a divorce decree or final child custody order; resolution may require a trial. If a child custody order is already in place, you will need to file a motion to modify the child custody order. Your ex will have an opportunity to file a written response to your motion. Then the court will set a hearing date.
Virginia law requires the parent wishing to relocate with children to provide the other parent (and the court) with written notice at least 30 days prior to the move. The notice should include the children’s proposed future address. If the other parent objects to the move, the moving party has the burden to establish that relocation will not “substantially impair” the relationship between the children and their non-moving parent.
Best Interests of the Children
If your ex objects to your request to move away with the children, a hearing will be held so a judge can determine whether relocating is in your children’s best interests. Though no bright line test exists for determining the best interests, in Virginia you are required to show that moving will confer an independent benefit upon the children. This means that moving to be closer to your family or for financial reasons will be insufficient unless you can prove that the children will directly benefit from the relocation. After you have made your case, the judge will review the situation in light of a variety of factors including: the children’s ages, physical health, parents’ age and physical health, the relationship of each parent with the children, propensity of each parent to actively participate in the children’s lives, and the children’s preferences, if appropriate. The judge will then either deny your request to relocate or approve of the move. A judge will be more likely to deny relocation if it appears a good relationship between your children and your ex will be difficult to maintain after the move. If your request is granted, it is important to work-out an acceptable visitation schedule for your ex to spend time with the children and incorporate this into the court’s order.
Whether you are seeking to relocate or to block relocation, consult with an experienced attorney as early in the process as possible. The custody lawyers at DiPietro Law Group, PLLC have years of experience handling custody relocation cases in jurisdictions across Northern Virginia and Washington, DC. Contact us to schedule a consultation today at (888) 530-4374.