Even a harmonious co-parenting arrangement can quickly become contentious if one parent decides to move out of state. How will this affect your ability to remain active in your children’s lives?

Whether your former partner is relocating because of a job, a new partner or the need for a fresh start, he or she cannot move the children away from you unless approved by the Virginia family court.

Consult the existing custody order

Most custody agreements include stipulations about relocating with the children. Depending on the jurisdiction that issued the agreement and your family circumstances at the time of the agreement, these requirements may include the following:

  • Giving the other parent a certain amount of notice
  • Staying within a certain distance of the other parent
  • Getting consent for the move from the other parent and/or the family court

In Virginia, the parent who is moving with minor children must give the other parent 30 days notice of the move unless otherwise stated in the custody agreement. In most cases, both parents must honor the terms of the original custody order even after an approved move.

Contest the move

If your child’s other parent has given you notice of a planned relocation, you can contest the move in family court. The judge will decide whether the move is in the child’s best interest based on a number of factors:

  • Each parent’s involvement in caring for the child
  • Whether the move will increase the child’s standard of living
  • Whether the move will affect the child’s education
  • Whether the child is moving away from or closer to a significant support system

When the parents cannot agree, the judge will make the final decision about where the child should live. If the judge approves the relocation, the visitation order can be modified to allow for longer summer visits, more weekends or more vacations so that each parent can share equal time with the child. A family law attorney can help you contest a planned relocation of your minor child.