How do the Virginia courts handle parental relocations?

On Behalf of | Apr 9, 2024 | Child custody

Sharing custody after a divorce or separation can be a challenging undertaking. Some people find it very difficult to co-parent without conflict. Others simply struggle to adjust to the limits on their time with their children. Parents who keep the focus on their children may have an easier time adjusting to shared custody arrangements after a Virginia divorce.

Although conflict tends to diminish over time as everyone acclimates to the new arrangements, sometimes new issues arise that affect co-parenting relationships. One parent may desire to move with the children. New romantic relationships, job offers or family connections elsewhere could motivate a move. The goal might be to move across the state or perhaps to leave Virginia entirely.

If the parents do not agree about the relocation, then the matter may go to the family courts. How do Virginia family judges handle contested relocation cases?

The courts can’t prevent a move

Contrary to what people sometimes think, family law judges in Virginia cannot prevent a parent from moving simply because they share custody of their children. However, a judge can decline to allow the children to relocate with one parent.

Any parent intending to move must provide the courts and their co-parent with at least 30 days advance notice of their plan. If the parents do not both agree on how to adjust the custody arrangement to accommodate the relocation request, then the judge hearing the case must determine if the move might be in the best interests of the children.

Factors ranging from the ability to maintain the relationship with the other parent to the proximity of family and the schools available can influence a judge’s decision. If they do allow one parent to relocate with the children, they may make other significant changes to the division of parenting time to make the final arrangements as fair and balanced as possible.

A parent proposing a relocation or responding to a request from a co-parent can develop their case in court based on the best interests of the children. Doing so might increase their chances of a favorable determination.

Understanding how judges respond to relocation requests where parents do not agree about a move can help co-parents better prepare for a custody modification hearing. Parents who are proactive about asserting their rights can respond appropriately to matters that could affect their relationship with their children.