What Should I Do If I Want To Relocate With The Kids After my Divorce?
The desire for a fresh start emotionally, financially, and even physically is very common after separation or divorce. While moving to a neighboring town or county may not concern your ex, moving several hours away or out of state entirely, perhaps for a new job or relationship, usually provokes a stern response when children are involved.
So what should you expect if you wish to relocate? Do you need court permission? If you do, how likely is it that you will be allowed to move?
After a custody or divorce proceeding involving children, Virginia law requires that both parties provide thirty days written notice to the other parent and the court of any intent to change address. This means that whether you are moving across the town or moving across the country, you must notify the other parent. Moving nearby or within the same school district ordinarily in and of itself does not warrant a court modifying custody. However, moving more than an hour away usually involves an entirely different analysis.
The court will examine whether it is in the best interests of the children to relocate with the moving parent by looking specifically at how the move would independently benefit them. This should not be confused with what is in the parent’s best interests. For example, moving because of a new relationship or a new job will not be sufficient in and of itself to warrant a relocation. However, moving to be close to immediate family who have a close relationship with the children, or moving to a better district and living environment, may prove to independently benefit the children. Another important component the court will analyze is the impact that the move has on the children’s time with the non-moving parent and whether it will substantially impair that relationship.
Overall, a court will take a full picture approach and review all of the pros and cons of the move versus allowing the children to remain in their current living situation. For the moving parent, it will be important to involve an attorney’s assistance early on to prepare the case. For the non-moving parent, it will be vital to spend as much time as possible with the children and maintain a strong bond, and involve an attorney if they have received a notice of relocation.