We live in an increasingly mobile society. As a result, it is not unusual for a parent with custody of his or her children to want to relocate their children to another community within Virginia; out-of-state; or even to a foreign country. When this occurs, and the relocation of the children is opposed by the other parent, you need counsel who is familiar with the unique issues involved in child custody relocation cases in Virginia.
If the parents are able to resolve these issues, counsel will draft a new custody agreement and/or Court order setting forth the parents’ agreement regarding the child custody relocation; any changes to the custodial arrangements; and the new parenting schedule. Typically, when children relocate far away from one of the parents, the parent who is not relocating attempts to maximize his or her time with the children during their school vacation periods; depending on the distance between the home of each parent, regular weekend visitation may also be arranged.
While the Court cannot prevent a parent from relocating, when the parents cannot agree on whether or not the move is in the best interests of their child or children, the Court has the ability to decide this issue. Like all child custody cases, in deciding this issue, the Court in Virginia must consider the child custody factors set out in section 20-124.3 of the Code of Virginia. The Court must consider the factors because the best interests of the children must always be determined in all child custody related decisions.
In addition to that, based on the Virginia Court of Appeals’ decision in Sullivan v. Knick, the trial court must also consider whether or not the relationship between the children, and the non-relocating parent, can be substantially maintained if the child or children are permitted to relocate.
The Court also stated in Sullivan that “the court may consider a benefit to the parent from relocation only if the move independently benefits the child”. Although advantages to the moving parent from the relocation may inure to the child and merit consideration, these advantages must be weighed against any adverse impact of the move on the relationship between the child and the other parent.
To be successful in a child custody relocation case in Virginia, you need counsel who can present your facts in a concise and compelling way.
The experienced child custody attorneys at Wexell Milman have handled a number of child custody relocation cases, including the seminal case of Sullivan v. Knick, at both the trial and appellate level. Should you be involved in a child custody relocation case – whether you are the parent who wishes to move away with the children after divorce or the parent who is opposing the move – we welcome the opportunity to consult with you about your options.
Serving clients in Fairfax County and throughout the surrounding jurisdictions of Northern Virginia since 1981, one of our knowledgeable divorce and custody attorneys will offer advice based on the facts of your case and on Virginia law. For answers to specific questions you have about child custody relocation, call Wexell Milman at 703-539-5398 or contact us online to book an appointment.