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Child custody and relocating

Divorced parents in Virginia who are considering moving may wonder what the laws are regarding relocating their children, custody and visitation. If the parents have not included a prior agreement regarding relocation in their child custody plan, the issue may be decided by the courts. As with all decisions concerning children, the child's best interests will be of paramount importance.

Alongside this, courts may weigh a number of factors if one parent wishes to relocate. These might include how far away the move is and how much notice the parent is able to give regarding the move. Courts may also consider the reason for the move. If the parent is moving for a better job or to be closer to family, the court may approve it, while moving without a job in place may not be approved. Another criteria is how active each parent has been in the child's life. If the parent who wishes to move has primary custody and the one objecting has missed visitation and child support payments, the courts may overrule that parent's objections.

The parent who is moving may need to put together a new visitation schedule reflecting the changes that will occur. If the parents have shared joint custody up to that point, it may be necessary for one parent to take primary physical custody of the child.

A parent who is planning to relocate may wish to work with an attorney to negotiate these changes with the other parent. It may be wise to make these agreements with legal assistance and put them in writing even if the parents have an amicable relationship. Doing so ensures that if there is conflict later, there is documentation of the agreement to fall back upon.

Source: Findlaw, "Child Custody Relocation Laws", December 01, 2014

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