Unlike other states, Virginia does not have a detailed statute that sets out what happens if a parent who has custody must move away from the Northern Virginia area.
The only relevant law on the books says that if a parent wants to move, they must notify both the other parent and the court of their new address.
Courts entering custody and visitation orders must include this notice requirement as part of its order. Generally, this applies to any change of address, even in theory an address down the street. However, the court can for a good reason waive this requirement.
Custodial parents wanting to move should also make sure to review their custody and parenting order, as the order may include important details and requirements.
The court will allow parents to relocate if the court feels the move is in the child’s best interest. The court will consider several factors to decide whether the move is in a child’s best interest.
Practically speaking, here are some circumstances a Virginia court might consider:
- If the parents agree to the move, the court is likely to allow it. Not in every case, but a custodial parent is often well-served by reaching out to the other parent to negotiate a solution if they need to move.
- The court will consider how involved the other parent in their children’s life has been prior to the move. A court is more likely to approve of a move if the other parent has been absent or distant.
- The distance of the move will matter. A move of 30 miles is more likely to get approved than a move to the other side of the United States.
- The court will consider the reasons for the move.
Parents who need to relocate will want to prepare a convincing case
Northern Virginia parents may need to move for many good reasons. Often, job opportunities or family obligations may take people out of this area.
While parents are free to leave, a court with jurisdiction can prevent them from taking their children with them. In order not to be forced into having to decide between their children and a move, they will need to prepare a convincing argument.