At the law firm of Christian Curtis, LLC , I represent parents on both sides of the dilemma: parents seeking to move with their child, and parents objecting to a child moving away.
All custody and visitation orders in Virginia must require that a parent who intends to move must provide the other parent with at least 30 days' written notice of the intent to move. If the move includes a child, the non-moving parent can then choose to take legal action to prevent the move. Failure by the non-moving parent to take such action can be seen as implicit consent.
In the absence of a standing custody order, there is no notice requirement in advance of relocating a child, but it would be wise not to take advantage of such a lapse in the law. The law expects parents to act in the best interests of their children, and it will be difficult, if a case is eventually brought to court, to explain to a judge why the relocating parent did not think it was important to advise the non-moving parent about an event that could have such a profound impact on the child’s relationship with the parent who remains behind.
In fact, a fairly sure way to lose custody of your child is to relocate him or her to another state surreptitiously. And if you whisk your child to another country, well, you may eventually have Interpol on your trail. In a number of states it is a crime to take a child away from his or her other parent with the intent of depriving that parent her natural parental rights. That is not the case yet in Virginia, but may be soon. Regardless, judges in the Commonwealth usually take a dim view of the parenting abilities of a party who tries to remove a child anywhere without notice and consent.
For logical reasons, when courts do decide the merits of a proposed relocation, they want to know the harm the move will have on the relationship with the parent who stays behind, and they want to know if the move will have an independent benefit for the children. So, for example, the fact that the relocation will improve that parent’s income will not, by itself, be deemed an “independent” benefit for the child.
Obviously, it is best for parents in light of an impending move to try to revise their present custody and visitation arrangements without going to court. But in either event, a child custody and visitation modification (link to post divorce modifications) will be necessary.