Is relocation a possibility in my Virginia custody case?

Posted on May 16, 2013 by Katie Carter

When your relationship with the father of your children doesn’t work out, it’s normal to want to make a change. Especially in military families, where the family relocates solely because of dad’s job, it makes sense that the first thing these moms think of is moving back home to be closer to their family and support network.

Legally, it can be incredibly difficult to win a relocation case. Why? Well, the courts are looking at the best interests of the child and, from their perspective, it is difficult to see why removing the child from one of the parents would be in the child’s best interests. Sure, there may be increased opportunities for mom if she moves back home, but the court isn’t really all that concerned with what is her best interest. The child’s relationship with other family members, including grandparents, aunts and uncles, is also considered, but the court probably won’t weigh these relationships as being more important than the child’s relationship with his or her father.

The court will never restrict YOUR ability to move, but the court can restrict your ability to move with the child. The court will listen to your argument for relocation, but in general these are difficult cases to win.

If your child’s father is in the military, you will only be tied to the area for so long as he is stationed there. Certainly, if his orders change and he moves somewhere else, you will then be free to move as well. Otherwise, you may be stuck—at least for awhile.

Relocation cases are often the most successful when the parties reach an agreement on the issue, and specifically handle how custody and visitation will be divided afterwards. You should remember that relocation will significantly impact custody and visitation. In most cases where mom and dad don’t live near each other, I see significant chunks of time given to the non-custodial parent—sometimes as much as six to ten weeks in the summer, and many of the school and religious holidays. Why? Well, since it’s not really possible to do the default every other weekend, Wednesday night dinner, two weeks in the summer arrangement, dad still deserves time with the child. If that time can’t be frequent and short in duration, then it has to be less frequent for longer periods of time.

Relocation is never a guarantee, and you should be prepared for that ahead of time. The court isn’t concerned with what’s in your best interests, either, so an argument that is basically that “my job will be better if I move, and me having more money benefits my child,” is not going to be sufficient. And probably the WORST thing you could say is that you want to move to be close to your new boyfriend or fiancée. Be careful, be aware that the judge is likely to look very critically at your request to relocate, and remember to focus your argument on why your relocation is in your child’s best interests—not yours.