We are often met with difficult decisions, especially when it comes to the possibility of having to relocate out of the area due to extenuating circumstances. Sometimes one of the biggest factors in this decision is how it would affect a person’s chances in a custody and visitation matter.
Relocation in a custody and visitation cases are difficult in most situations when there is no agreement by the parties. Whether it be modifying a custody and visitation agreement or how it factors into a pending case, there are oftentimes no easy solutions. In terms of relocation, the courts address this issue through the best interests of the child standard, which is decided through an analysis of the ten factors enumerated in section 20-124.3 of the Virginia Code.
Now, if a parent relocates prior to the commencement of a legal action involving custody and visitation, then the question sometimes comes down to how long the moving parent has resided in the new state. In Virginia, child custody and visitation jurisdiction is decided under the “home state rule,” which means that Virginia has jurisdiction over a case if the child resided in Virginia for the past six months or if the last consecutive six month period was in Virginia. For example, if a mother moves with her children to California and resided in California for only 3 months before the father files for custody in Virginia, then Virginia would likely have jurisdiction. However, if a mother moves with her children to California and resided in California for 7 months before the father files for custody in Virginia, then Texas would likely have jurisdiction over the case. There are a few exceptions to the “home state rule” including a parent relocating out a state due to abuse to that parent or to the children.