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Virginia Custody Laws: Can a Custodial Parent Relocate to Another State?

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When you think about child custody issues, you most likely think of divorce. In fact, there are a variety of reasons you may seek custody over a child and Virginia laws allow any legitimately interested person the ability to petition the court for custody. Regardless of the reason, if you have legal custody over a child you will have proven to the court that you can care for the child in a way that is best for them.

What happens, though, if you have custody of a child and for one reason or another, you decide to move out of state? Perhaps you share custody with the child’s other parent and that parent vehemently objects to your impending move because he or she will no longer be able to see the child.

A Custodial Parent Must Seek Court Approval to Relocate

A parent with custody of a child is called the “custodial parent” while the parent who does not have custody is called the “non-custodial parent.” Virginia law allows for the following types of custody situations:

  1. Legal custody either joint or sole;
  2. Physical custody either joint or sole;

Where there is already a court order or custody agreement in place, a judge will have to approve the relocation of the custodial parent. The laws governing child custody do not provide a clear test for determining whether or not custodial parent may move to another state over the objections of a non-custodial parent but judges will examine a parent’s relocation request and ultimately attempt to make a decision that reflects the best interest of the child. Pursuant to Title 20 of the Virginia Code, a court will consider 10 factors in determining what is best for the child.

Which State’s Laws Govern Custody If I Move Out of State?

In 1968 the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) drafted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) and by the 1980s it had been adopted by all 50 states. The UCCJA was promulgated in large part to circumvent the problem of non-custodial parents taking their children to other states in an attempt to receive more favorable custody rulings. Essentially, this was tantamount to kidnapping and in 1981, Congress adopted the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA) in hopes of both bolstering the UCCJA and curbing parental kidnapping. Unfortunately, UCCJA and PKPA did not wholly align and in 1997 the ULC promulgated the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) to reconcile the other two acts. As of 2016 every state except for Massachusetts has adopted the UCCJEA.

Accordingly, in the vast majority of jurisdictions, courts will look to the UCCJEA to determine which state’s laws govern custody disputes and it provides that a child’s home state should have jurisdiction unless temporary emergency jurisdiction is necessary. It should be noted that a child’s home state can change depending on permanence of the relocation.

Leesburg Child Custody Lawyers Understand Custodial Rights

The attorneys of Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC understand the emotional complexities of custody disputes and we are passionate about helping you, your family and your children find the best solution in times of familial distress. If you or a loved one is going through a difficult custody issue, please contact us today and we can discuss how we may be able to help you.

Resources:

law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title20/chapter6.1/section20-124.3/

uniformlaws.org/ActSummary.aspx?title=Child%20Custody%20Jurisdiction%20and%20Enforcement%20Act

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