Child Custody and Relocation

Considerations in Child Relocation Cases

A persistent issue in child custody cases is the need to relocate out of state or jurisdiction and the impact this has on custodial arrangements. Virginia will always default 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.

This includes the analysis of if the child is permitted, or not permitted, to relocate, what impact will this have on the non-custodial parent.? What impact will this have on a parent who must relocate, but the Court will not permit this with the child?

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 non-custodial parent and the child, i.e. will this be too negatively impact to safely approve the relocation.
  2. How drastically the relocation will affect the non-custodial parent’s visitation with the child, i.e. will the schedule in place no longer work or is making a functional schedule not possible, and
  3. The general reasons why the custodial parent wants to relocate, including contact with extended family, economic stability, and employment opportunities, and other general factors from the code to be considered by the Court.

Relocation Impact Analysis

Often, the focus comes down to is the benefit to the child so great that the potential risk to the noncustodial parent is outweighed. That is typically, are there educational, cultural, medical, or other benefits to the relocation that will be such a benefit to the child, that the noncustodial parents relationship will simply have to either be negatively impacted or require a change in the normal custodial schedule.

In this type of case, the resolution is often very fact-specific. That is, what is the distance of the relocation? How involved has the noncustodial parent been? Are there opportunities locally in which the child could benefit? Each parent generally has a different opinion on how each of these factors impacts the child, and in some cases, the child can be of an age where they will have a position or recommendation on whether or not they wish to move. This will often be handled “in camera” between the child and a judge without the interference of parents and attorney’s in open court.