Fairfax Relocation Lawyer

A child custody dispute may be one of the most difficult challenges you will ever have to face. The dispute can become even more contentious if you or the other parent wants to relocate with the children, perhaps to a place far enough away that the custody schedule you currently have would no longer be viable.

If you are considering relocating and taking your children, or the other parent has advised you of an intention to do so, it is essential that you are aware of what you can and cannot do under Virginia’s child custody laws. A Fairfax relocation lawyer could advise you of the applicable law and what legal action you may take to maximize your chance of obtaining court approval for your move. If the other parent wants to move with the children and you disagree, your family attorney can help ensure that your objection is filed correctly and heard in court.  In certain cases, the Court can stop a party from moving away.

The Significance of Custody Orders in Relocation Cases

If there is no child custody order in place and one parent wants to relocate with the children, there is technically nothing preventing them from doing so, as both parents are presumed to always act in their children’s best interests. However, if one parent learns of the relocation plan and does not consent to that plan, that parent may file an emergency petition and request that the other parent be prohibited from moving the children until the case is heard in court.

If there is a child custody order in place prior to either parent’s request to relocate the children, the parent requesting the relocation must seek a modification of that order before moving. If they do not and move the children without a court order, they may face contempt of court and an order requiring them to return the children. Additionally, Va. Code Ann. §18.2-49.1 specifies that knowingly, wrongfully, and intentionally keeping a child out of state and away from the other parent in violation of a court order is considered felony parental abduction.   Because the sanctions for relocating children without the other parent’s consent or the court’s permission can be severe, it is essential to consult a knowledgeable relocation attorney before any relocation.

Notification of an Intention to Relocate

If a child custody order has been issued, Va. Code Ann. §20-124.5 requires that a parent who intends to relocate their children to another state give the other parent and the court 30 days’ notice, in writing, of the relocation plan and the children’s new address. If the other parent objects, a judge may determine whether to allow the move temporarily or prohibit it until the court makes a final determination.

Factors to Consider in Relocation Cases

In every relocation case, a judge must decide if the move is in the children’s best interest. Additionally, the benefit to the children must be separate from the benefit to the parent. For example, if a parent remarries and wants to move because their new spouse got a better job in another state, that parent must show how the move would benefit the children, not just that it would be good for the spouses.

When deciding relocation requests, the court must consider certain factors including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The benefit to the children of remaining with their primary caregiver
  • The children’s connection to the new community, including the presence of any friends or extended family
  • Whether a lower cost-of-living will increase a parent’s resources to the children’s benefit
  • Whether relocating would enable a working parent working to stay home with the children
  • The ability of both parents to maintain long-distance visits and communications between the children and the non-relocating parent
  • Whether the non-relocating parent could provide adequate care for the children if the relocation request is denied

If a judge determines that the parent’s plan to relocate is an attempt to limit or exclude the other parent from the children’s lives, the judge will likely deny the request. A parent involved in a relocation case could benefit from an experienced relocation lawyer’s assistance to develop a ‘moving plan’ to present to the court.

Talk to an Experienced Fairfax Relocation Attorney

There are many reasons why a parent may want to relocate with their children, either to another location within Virginia, another state, or possibly a foreign country. These reasons could include needing to move for employment, marrying someone who lives elsewhere, or perhaps wanting to be closer to aging parents or extended family.

If you face a relocation that would affect either parent’s time with the children, you may benefit from working with an attorney who understands the unique issues that often arise in relocation cases. A Fairfax relocation lawyer can guide you through the legal process of relocation, whether you are relocating or the other parent wants to move and you fear losing time with your kids. Call one of our firm’s knowledgeable relocation lawyers to discuss your case.