During your divorce, you had the challenging task of attempting to create a child custody arrangement that would not only work then, but in the future as well. Unfortunately, you can't account for every eventuality when all you have to work with is a snapshot in time and hopes for the future.
You may reach a point where taking the next, best step in your life requires you to move. The problem is that you can't just move away with the children since you have an existing child custody order. If you want to relocate and take the children with you, you will need the court to approve the relocation and modify your existing order.
The court continues to consider the best interests of your children
You may decide to relocate for a better job opportunity, to be closer to extended family or to be in a better environment for your children. Even so, before you can start packing boxes, you need the court to see things your way. This often means providing evidence to the court that the move serves the best interest of your children.
A large part of this consideration is how the other parent will maintain a relationship with the children after the move. Even if the other parent agrees, and the two of you come up with a plan that will allow him or her as much time with the children as possible, the court will still want to review the totality of the situation, including the following factors:
- Just how far away do you intend to move?
- Are your children old enough to express their preference?
- Does the move provide the children with a better quality of life?
- Did you inform the other parent of the move prior to initiating court proceedings?
How you answer these questions could make or break the outcome of your request. In addition to making sure that the move would benefit the children's interests, the court will also want to know that you and the other parent have at least discussed the matter ahead of time.
Putting your best foot forward
You probably didn't come to the decision to relocate lightly. The court needs to know that. It would help your case if you went into court prepared. Have a proposed plan regarding visitation for the other parent -- preferably one that the two of you worked out together. You may want to prepare to offer extended visitation times if the move requires substantial travel for visitation.
In order to better prepare, it may benefit you greatly to make use of the local legal resources in your area that can help you identify any potential roadblocks to receiving a Virginia court's approval for your relocation.