Virginia Relocation Lawyer

Parents with primary custody of their children sometimes want to relocate with the children after a divorce. While the desire for a fresh start is understandable, both parents must agree to the relocation. When the parent staying behind objects, the relocating parent must obtain a court order allowing the move.

Whatever side you fall on the relocation issue, as a parent, you need legal advice from a capable family attorney. A Virginia relocation lawyer could advise you on how to achieve relocation or prevent it.

The Law Requires Notice of Intention to Move with the Children

Virginia Code § 20-124.5 requires judges to include a relocation provision in all custody orders. The provision must demand a parent give 30 days’ written notice to the other parent and the court when they intend to move with the children.

Obtaining the other parent’s voluntary consent to move is the best way to proceed. Giving the co-parent plenty of notice and accepting changes to the parenting plan to ensure they still have regular, meaningful contact with the children is respectful, cost-effective, and saves each parent considerable agitation and stress. It also benefits the children to see their parents working together to preserve the children’s relationships with both parents.

However, if the co-parents have a bitter or volatile relationship, providing more notice than the law calls for might not be advisable. In that case, a skilled Virginia relocation attorney could ensure the co-parent receives the appropriate written notice and, if necessary, negotiate changes to the parenting plan with the co-parent’s legal advisor.

Modifying the Parenting Plan to Accommodate Relocation

Changes to the parenting plan are usually necessary if the children move a significant distance from their co-parent. Depending on the current parenting plan, substantial revisions might be necessary.

Courts want to see that each parent retains opportunities to have a meaningful relationship with the children and exercise their right to parenting time. The law demands children get significant contact with each parent unless good reason exists to limit contact. Regularly scheduled phone calls or video chats, frequent trips by the children or co-parent to see each other in person, and extended visits over the school holidays could allow the non-custodial parent to maintain their relationship with the children.

An experienced relocation lawyer in Virginia could help parents revise their parenting plan or refer them to a mediator who could help them find a workable solution. When parents agree on revisions to the parenting plan, they could submit it to the court for approval. Doing so ensures the parents have access to the courts if they must enforce the new plan and protects the custodial parent if the non-custodial parent later tries to enforce the original plan.

Obtaining Court Approval to Relocate

If the non-custodial parent does not agree to the relocation, the custodial parent must petition the court for permission. A court will not approve the move unless the parent can demonstrate that relocation is in the children’s best interests.

Parents desiring to move for a better job or to pursue a new relationship might not distinguish their best interests from their children’s. The law does not assume a parent’s increased happiness or prosperity necessarily trickles down to the children. When determining whether a move supports the children’s best interests, the judge could consider the following, among other factors:

  • The children’s ages and stages of development
  • Each parent’s relationship with each child
  • Each child’s relationships and ties with siblings, extended family, school, and their current community
  • Each parent’s demonstrated willingness and ability to participate in each child’s life and anticipate and meet their needs
  • Each parent’s ability and willingness to support the co-parent’s relationships with the children

When a child is old enough and capable of expressing a thoughtful opinion, the court will consider their feelings.

After hearing from both parents, the judge could allow relocation if they believe the move supports the children’s interests, rule against relocation, or transfer primary custody to the non-custodial parent. Whether a parent is seeking the court’s permission to move with the children or trying to prevent relocation, a proactive legal professional could present evidence and arguments demonstrating the parent’s goals are in accord with the children’s best interests.

Contact a Virginia Relocation Attorney to Adjust Your Parenting Plan

When you or your children’s custodial parent is exploring moving out of the area, speak with a legal professional as soon as possible. A Virginia relocation lawyer could help you negotiate changes to your parenting plan or, if necessary, prepare a case for court.

Relocation inevitably changes your family dynamics. Prepare yourself by contacting a local attorney today.