Child Custody Issues: Relocating a Minor Child
Families with children that have separated are faced with a myriad of issues – concerns about custody, visitation, support, and maintaining strong familial connections are often on the forefront of parent’s minds post-separation. Many times there are clear answers to these concerns, however, some families face the added twist of one parent moving further away from the other parent – creating longer distances between children and parents. It is this issue that does not generally have any one right or easy answer.
In Virginia, when a custody order is in place, each party is required by law to provide at least 30 days written notice of any intent to relocate. This written notice must be provided to the court and to the other party. The notice must provide the new address and any change of telephone number. The 30 day notice period provides the opportunity to a non-custodial parent to object to any relocation of the children. An objection is often necessary only when the custodial parent and child’s relocation will decrease the non-custodial parent’s visitation and ability to maintain close physical contact with the child.
While a long-distance relocation will inevitably negatively affect a non-custodial parent’s ability to maintain physical contact, court’s have increasingly been considering today’s mobile society in determining whether to permit the relocation. Not only are we highly mobile, but telecommunication technology has also enhanced dramatically – people often use Facetime on their Apple devices or Skype to chat via video and it is far easier today to make transcontinental and long distance telephone calls.
While Virginia courts are increasingly considering today’s mobile society in determining relocation cases, this consideration is tempered by the best interests of the child standard. The Supreme Court of Virginia dealt with relocation in the 1985 case of Gray v. Gray. The Gray court held that “[b]efore a court permits a custodial parent to remove children from the Commonwealth, it must determine that removal is in the children’s best interest[.]” Prior to the Gray case, the Supreme Court of Virginia had decided the 1975 case of Carpenter v. Carpenter, which found seven factors to be relevant considerations in determining whether relocation is in the best interests of the child –
(1) whether the children are developing well in the environment where they reside;
(2) whether the child is happy, well adjusted, and making good grades;
(3) whether the child has been able to maintain a close and affectionate relationship with both parents;
(4) whether both parents are playing an active role in the care, education, and development of the children;
(5) the extent to which the non-custodial parents visits would be reduced in the event of relocation;
(6) the extent to which the custodial parent can expect increased income or employment opportunities in the event of relocation; and
(7) any cultural and educational advantages in the new location.
If you are faced with the dilemma of a relocation, contact the experienced family law attorneys at The Daugherty Law Firm, P.C. to assist and advise you on this matter.