When two parents divorce, the issue isn’t just between the two; it involves the children. Mistakenly, many couples think that once the custody issues have been settled it will be smooth sailing from then on. That is not normally the case because many other issues can crop up as life’s circumstances change.
One of the more complicated issues we encounter at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor is when one parent wants or needs to relocate out of state because of a job offer or marriage to someone who lives in another state, or a parent who will work outside the state where the existing custody order is issued.
A parent who wants to relocate must establish that the relocation independently benefits the child. There is no “unity of interests” approach in Virginia; just because a move benefits a parent does not mean it will automatically be deemed to benefit the child.
No court can prohibit a parent from moving. If he or she wants to move, it is a matter of their constitutional rights to associate with and live wherever and with whomever he or she likes. However, courts do retain the right to control whether the child moves along with that parent.
Factors a Court Considers in Relocation Impact
There is no simple black or white solution. To consider whether the relocation is in the child’s best interests, the courts look at these factors:
If the relocation will substantially interfere with the non-moving parent’s ability to maintain a strong bond with the child as it exists at present, the judge may not agree that it is in the best interest of the child to be relocated with the moving parent. Courts also consider the reason the relocating parent wants to move with factors that include being closer to extended family, employment opportunities and economic advantages.
Courts can also take into consideration the existing relationship between the remaining parent and the child. If there is little or no contact, judges are more likely to side with the relocating parent and the non-relocating parent will have less success in blocking a child’s relocation.
It should be noted also that under Virginia law, the burden of proving that the relocation will be in the best interest of the child lies with the relocating parent.
If it is deemed that the move is in the best interest of the child, modifications to the existing custody arrangement need to be put into place. These can include weekends, summer vacations, or other variations that allow longer visitation times in exchange for the reduction in frequency as not enabled by the farther distance.
Contact Your Attorney
At the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C., attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi specialize in family law and estate planning to assist people with family law issues. If you are seeking to relocate with your child or attempting to block a parental relocation, contact us today.