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When A Child Custody Case May Require Relocation

A persistent issue in child custody cases is parents’ expressed needs to relocate out of state or jurisdiction. At Ashwell & Ashwell, PLLC, we help clients understand the potential impact of a relocation on custodial arrangements. Virginia will always default to and rely on the best interests of the child in determining if a change of custody or visitation is necessary. However, relocation cases often add a slightly more complicated layer to the analysis.

If relocation is in question in your case, our family law attorneys will advise you on whether a judge is likely to allow your child to relocate and what impact such an arrangement will likely have on the noncustodial parent. We will also examine the impact for a parent who must relocate although the court will not permit the child to do so.

Let us examine the hard questions with you and help you reimagine possibilities for your family life after you or the other parent relocates if this becomes necessary. Our lawyers encourage parents to consider options such as having a child spend every summer vacation with the noncustodial parent. Then we will help you negotiate or litigate while pursuing solutions that are right for your family.

Relocation Request Considerations

In considering a party’s relocation request, the court generally focuses on the following factors:

  1. The impact relocation will have on the relationship between the noncustodial parent and the child. What steps can be taken to maintain their parent-child relationship?
  2. The degree to which the relocation will affect the noncustodial parent’s visitation with the child: Will the schedule in place no longer work or make a functional schedule impossible?
  3. The general reasons why the custodial parent wants to relocate: What arguments may go before the court as contact with extended family, economic stability and the parent’s employment opportunities are on the line?

Relocation Impact Analysis

Often, the focus of a decision comes down to whether the benefit to the child is so great that the potential risk to the noncustodial parent is outweighed. In other words, are there educational, cultural, medical or other benefits to the child of a relocation with one parent? Would the noncustodial parent’s relationship be negatively impacted, or will a change in the normal custodial schedule offer a solution?

The resolution of a child relocation petition is often very fact-specific. Details such as the following must be considered:

  • The distance of the relocation
  • The previous level of involvement of the noncustodial parent
  • Local opportunities that may benefit the child

Each parent generally has a different opinion on how each of these factors impacts the child. In some cases, the child is old enough to weigh in on whether or not they wish to move.

To gain an understanding of a child’s perspective, a judge will often communicate with the child through a video conference without the interference of parents or attorneys in an open court context.

Rest Assured, We Can Help

We realize the uncertainties and conflicts that often go along with relocation cases are typically stressful and worrisome for parents. While we cannot make a feeling of conflict go away in such cases, we can share with our clients how many other families in similar situations have found workable solutions.

Learn how we can advocate for you and your child or children in a custody case, with or without relocation as a factor. Schedule a consultation by calling 540-991-9100 or complete our online inquiry form to get the conversation started.