If one parent has primary custody of the children, can he or she move to a different state or country with them?

If so, how would such a move affect visitation schedules?

By Carolyn Grimes
December 26, 2016

In Virginia, parents have to give either parent 30 days’ advance notice of the intent to move, and the purpose behind that is to give the other parent time to object to the move. Let's say they do give the 30 days’ notice that they want to move to Mississippi, and the other parent objects; they file a court action here asking for an order to bar the children moving until there can be a hearing. Those are relocation custody cases, and what those boil down to is, is it better for the children to move or to stay here? It's still decided on the best interest of the children, but the main factors that a Virginia court will consider, and this is probably typical in other courts, is, what's the urgency of the moving parent’s reason to move and how involved has the nonmoving parent been in the child's life? If the nonmoving parent only sees the child in the summer for some reason, they're going to let the other parent move, but if the nonmoving parent has a child every week or part of each week, it's very difficult in a Virginia court to be allowed to move unless there is an urgent matter that cannot be addressed in Virginia.

Once you have school-age children, the visitation schedules are dictated by the school year. I have clients that do every other weekend visitation with a four-hour driving distance from Northern Virginia. If you move to Raleigh, or you move to New York City, and you really like to drive, you can still see the kids every other weekend. But beyond four hours, courts generally don't let the children drive on the weekends.

When you're talking school breaks, if you move across the country, if you move to California, you're going to see the child only during the school breaks. You're not going to get all of the summer because the child still needs to be home a bit and the other parent still needs some vacation, especially if they're working parents. It changes the visitation radically. You can also ask for Skype, FaceTime, phone calls whenever you're in the area where the child has moved. You generally get to see the child, unless it's the other parent’s Christmas, for example. But it changes things radically for the visitation.


Carolyn Grimes is a family lawyer at the law firm of Wade Grimes Friedman Sutter & Leischner PLLC in Alexandria, Virginia. To learn more about Grimes and her firm, visit www.oldtownlawyers.com.

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December 26, 2016
Categories:  FAQs

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