Q: I currently have joint custody from an agreement signed by me and my ex wife, she is now trying to leave the state.
I am wondering if she needs to get permission from me before moving to a different start.
That depends entirely on the provisions of your agreement or court order (what, if anything, your agreement or court order state regarding relocation of the child). If your agreement states that the parent with physical custody of the child may not relocate the child out of state or beyond a certain area, then the other parent is vwill be violating it by moving the child and you could file a motion to have your agreement enforced and prevent the relocation of the chil. However, without such a provision in an agreement or court order, there is no general law that prohibits a parent with physical custody of a child from relocating the child to another state or area. If your rights are not protected by such a provision, there is a Virginia statute that was enacted to protect you. In Virginia, a parent must give the court and the other parent 30 days notice of any intended change of address in writing. The purpose is to allow the parent who does not have physical custody of the child with an opportunity to file a motion with the court to order the parent not to relocate the child, and/or a petition to change custody. Relocation law in Virginia is VERY dependent upon the particular circumstances of the case and it is extremely difficult for even an experienced attorney to predict the outcome of a relocation case. What the court will take into consideration in deciding a relocation case includes, but is not limited to, the effect that the relocation will have on the other parent's visitation with the child or the other parent's ability to maintain a relationship with the child over the distance, and whether the relocation of the child will benefit the child (independently of any benefit the move will have for the relocating parent). You should file a motion if you fear that the relocation will impair your ability to visit your child or maintian a meaningful relationship with your child. However, you are well advised to hire an attorney to represent you. But do not forget to consider what is actually best for your child. There are methods, other than having a judge make the decision for you, to achieve the best interests of your child, including mediation.
Beth McCord Paleos, Esq.
McCord Law Office
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