In Virginia there is no difference in legal standard between domestic relocation within the United States and international relocation of children. Procedurally, the burden of proof is on the parent planning to move a child away from the other parent.

Case law, Virginia statute Va. Code Ann. §20-124.3, and the best interest of the child govern custody decisions. Trial courts do not have the ability to prevent a parent from moving but may prevent the parent from relocating with a minor child. 

There are three requirements to prevail with the relocation of a minor child over the objection from the other parent:

  • The Court must find a material change in circumstance from the original custody order.
  • The Court must find that the relocation would be in the child’s best interest
  • The Court must find that the relocation would not cause a substantial burden on the relationship between the child and the parent not moving.


Although the Court considers many factors, these are a few of the most important:

1. Stability of the Moving Parent

Stability in a new environment for a child is very important. It is important that the moving parent could prove that despite the new location that the child would be in an environment of stability, love, and concern for him or her.

2. Familiarity with New Location

The Court considers whether the child has a connection to the new location, or if the child has visited the new location previously.

3. Moving Parent-Child Relationship and Financial Stability 

The Court takes into consideration which parent is the primary caregivers and the effect that the move would have on that relationship and the child. The Court wants to ensure that the child will be properly taken care of in the new location. 

4. Proposed Maintenance of Non-moving Parent and Child Relationship

The Court also considers whether the moving parent would be supportive of sustaining the relationship of the child and the non-moving parent.

5. Reason for Relocation

The Court looks at the reason for relocation to ensure that the move is not for illegitimate reasons. The Court would not approve of a move to spite the non-moving parent.


If you are consider relocating orin need of a lawyer for a custody proceeding, please contact Smith Strong PLC to speak with an experienced associate. Call one of our offices at (804) 325-1245 (Richmond) or (757) 941-4298 (Williamsburg). 

H. Van Smith
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Trusted Virginia Attorney Serving Richmond to Williamsburg