Children - § 3-2 (E) - § 3-2 (F)

    (E)  International Child Abduction/Hague Convention

2016—Coe v. Coe , 66 Va. App. 457
Under the federal International Child Abduction Remedies Act, which implements the Hague Convention (“Convention”), state and federal district courts have concurrent original jurisdiction of actions arising under the Convention. Any person seeking the return of a child pursuant to the Convention may commence a civil action by filing a petition in a court where the child is located. The petitioner bears the burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that the removal or retention was wrongful within the meaning of the Convention. The respondent must show by clear and convincing evidence that one of the Convention’s exceptions applies to prevent the return. A return remedy does not alter the pre-abduction allocation of custody rights but leaves custodial decisions to the courts of the country of the child’s habitual residence.

The Hague Convention (“Convention”) is designed to restore the factual status quo, which is unilaterally altered when a parent abducts a child and aims to protect the legal custody rights of the non-abducting parent. The removal of or retention of a child by the abducting parent is wrongful if it violates the custody rights of the non-abducting parent under the law of the country where the child habitually resided immediately before the removal or retention. If a child has been wrongfully removed or retained within the meaning of the Convention, the child shall be promptly returned, unless a statutory exception is applicable. Once such exception is if there is a grave risk that a child’s return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm.

The trial court did not err in determining that South Korea was the child’s country of “habitual residence” under the Hague Convention (“Convention”). The Convention lays venue for the ultimate custody determination in the child’s country of “habitual residence” rather than the country to which the child is abducted. A child’s habitual residence is the place where he or she has been physically present for an amount of time sufficient for acclimatization and which has a degree of settled purpose from the child’s perspective. However, when the case involves a very young child, acclimatization is not nearly as important as the settled purpose and shared intent of the child’s parents in choosing a particular habitual residence. The analysis is a fact specific inquiry to be made on a case-by-case basis. A parent cannot create a new habitual residence by wrongfully removing and sequestering a child.

Here, prior to Father’s wrongful retention of the child in Virginia, Mother and child lived in South Korea where the child had been enrolled in primary school for three years. Notably, Father never objected to the child residing in South Korea. Accordingly, given that the child was over four years of age, she had been physically present in South Korea long enough to be acclimatized from her perspective to that county.

Under the federal International Child Abduction Remedies Act, which implements the Hague Convention (“Convention”), “[a]ny court ordering the return of a child pursuant to an action brought under [the Convention] shall order the respondent to pay necessary expenses incurred by or on behalf of the petitioner, including court costs, legal fees..., and transportation costs related to the return of the child, unless the respondent establishes that such order would clearly be inappropriate. A fee award under the Convention is reviewed for an abuse of discretion.

    (1)  Personal

    (2)  Subject Matter

2012—Williams v. Williams , 61 Va. App. 170
Va. Code §20-108 confers continuing and exclusive subject matter jurisdiction to revise and alter a decree concerning the care, custody, and maintenance of children on the particular circuit court that entered the original decree.

2009—Miller v. Jenkins , 54 Va. App. 282
Court of Appeals jurisdiction over subject areas enumerated by Va. Code §17.1-405   is not limited to actions arising out of Title 16.1 or Title 20.  Despite the fact that the suit was brought under the Declaratory Judgment Act, the underlying cause was a custody dispute, and thus, within the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals on appeal from the trial court. 

2007—Lynchburg Division of Social Services v. Cook, 50 Va. App. 218
The trial court has jurisdiction to award custody based on a best interest standard even while a Division of Social Services Abuse and Neglect Proceeding is pending.
Child custody was properly before the court. A petition for custody brought under Va. Code §16.1-241   and containing the information required under Va. Code §16.1-260   and Va. Code §20-124.1 et seq . is sufficient to bring the issue of custody before the court.

2007—Hudson v. Franklin County Department of Social Services, Va. Ct. of Appeals, Unpublished, No. 0576-06-3
Trial court’s determination that the 2003 order awarding Mother custody of her biological child was void for lack of jurisdiction was reversed.  The district court had subject matter jurisdiction to determine whether she was a party with a legitimate interest and to hear the custody dispute and any error in the district court’s ruling would merely have rendered the ruling voidable as opposed to void.

    (3)  Transfer

2012—Williams v. Williams , 61 Va. App. 170
Va. Code §20-79(c) authorizes a circuit court to transfer to an appropriate juvenile court jurisdiction pertaining to maintenance of a spouse, support, care, and custody of children after the entry of a divorce decree. However, the statute does not authorize such a transfer from one circuit court to another. Though a transfer may be appropriate in cases where venue is improper, when a court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case must be dismissed.

    (4)  Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

2014—White v. White , Va. Ct. of Appeals, Unpublished, No. 0903-14-4
The trial court did not err in registering a Swiss child custody order under the UCCJEA even though the Swiss court that issued the order acquired retroactive subject matter jurisdiction over the custody proceeding, a jurisdictional procedure not recognized by federal or Virginia law. The statutorily provided purposes of the UCCJEA are to avoid jurisdictional competition and conflict with the courts of other states in child custody matters, avoid relitigation of other states’ custody decisions insofar as feasible; and facilitate enforcement of other states’ custody decrees. Here, the Swiss custody order meets the UCCJEA’s requirements for registration of an out-of-state custody order. To hold that the order cannot be registered in Virginia because the Swiss court acquired retroactive subject matter jurisdiction would frustrate the clear purposes of the UCCJEA.

2011—Parris v. Doctor , Va. Ct. of Appeals, Unpublished, No. 0081-11-1
The trial court did not err in determining, pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, that Virginia was an inconvenient forum for custody petitions filed by a maternal grandmother. The child had lived with the mother in South Carolina for two months prior to the filing of the grandmother's petitions, and had lived with the mother in North Carolina for two years prior to that. The child last attended school in North Carolina, the abuse alleged by the grandmother was alleged to have occurred in North Carolina, and the investigation regarding the abuse was done by child protective services in North Carolina.

2011—Prizzia v. Prizzia , 58 Va. App. 137
For purposes of determining a child’s “home state” pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, the Court must ask whether, at any point throughout the six months preceding the date of filing, it could be said that on a particular date, the child had lived with a parent in a particular state for at least six consecutive months. The purpose behind this statutory scheme is to extend a state’s home state status throughout the six-month period it would take for another state to become the child’s new home state. Thus, if a child lived with a parent in Virginia for six months and then moved to another state or country, Virginia would continue to have jurisdiction to make an initial custody determination under Va. Code §20-146.12(A)(1) until the child had lived for at least six months in the new state.

The trial court erred in declining to exercise jurisdiction over a custody matter where wife had previously filed for custody in Hungary. Because the child had not yet lived in Hungary for six months, Virginia remained the home state of the child, and continued to have home state jurisdiction. Furthermore, when declining to exercise jurisdiction, the trial court failed to do so in accordance with Va. Code §20-146.18 by refusing to permit the parties to present evidence and by refusing to consider the relevant factors listed in the statute for determining whether Virginia was an inconvenient forum. In order for a trial court to decline to exercise jurisdiction under Va. Code §20-146.18, it must specifically determine (i) that it is an inconvenient forum under the circumstances; and (ii) that a court of another state is a more appropriate forum. In determining whether another state is the more appropriate forum, the trial court “must allow the parties to present evidence” and “consider all relevant factors,” including those listed in the Va. Code §20-146.18(B).

2011—Morrison v. Morrison, 57 Va. App. 629
Although the trial court erred in refusing to register a Michigan custody order based solely on the mother's violation of that order, the refusal to register was nonetheless appropriate due to the fact that the order had been modified by the same Michigan court subsequent to its entry. Pursuant to Virginia Code §20-146.24(A), the Commonwealth shall only recognize and enforce custody determinations of another state if the determination has not been modified. Thus, the Court of Appeals held that the correct conclusion had been reached, despite the erroneous basis cited by the trial court.

2010—Upson v. Wallace , 3 A.3d 1148
Custody order entered by Virginia court was valid even though, subsequent to filing, all parties to the proceeding relocated outside of Virginia. If a state has home-state jurisdiction to issue an initial custody determination under the UCCJEA at the time an action is filed, then the court may still exercise that jurisdiction, even after all parties leave the state while the litigation remains pending.

2009—Prashad v. Copeland and Spivey , 55 Va. App. 247
The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act's (PKPA) chief purpose is to avoid jurisdictional competition and conflict between state courts in child custody cases. It requires that the appropriate authorities of every state shall enforce, according to its terms, any custody or visitation determination made consistently with the provisions of the Act by a court of another state. In other words, the PKPA extends full faith and credit specifically to child custody determinations.

Article 3 of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) requires courts of the Commonwealth to "recognize and enforce" appropriate child custody determinations of the courts of other states. The first step in the recognition and enforcement of a foreign child custody determination is registration of the order with the appropriate juvenile and domestic relations district court. Upon registration, a court in the Commonwealth can recognize and enforce, but not modify, except in accordance with Article 2 of the UCCJEA, a registered child custody determination of another state. The UCCJEA takes an all-or-nothing approach to registration of child custody determinations, limiting the scope of an enforcing court's inquiry into the original custody order to a determination of whether the decreeing court of another state had jurisdiction and complied with due process in rendering the original order.

The trial court did not err in registering all four custody orders from a North Carolina court, despite the birth-mother's request that only the portions of those orders related to her custodial rights and those of the natural father be entered. The trial court was required to register the orders in their entirety or not register them at all.

2008—Bennett v. Bennett-Smith , Va. Ct. of Appeals, Unpublished, No. 1852-07-1
No litigant will be permitted to approbate and reprobate – to invite error, and then take advantage of the situation created by his own wrong. Appellants are not permitted to file for custody in Virginia, fail to advise the Virginia courts of their position that a child custody proceeding had previously been commenced in Kansas, litigate the custody matter in Virginia as if the Virginia courts had initial child custody jurisdiction, and then argue the Virginia courts only had temporary emergency jurisdiction that was lost when the JDR court failed to provide in its order a period of time for the appellants to obtain a Kansas order.

2008—Foster v. Foster , 52 Va. App. 523
Trial court did not abuse discretion in holding that Virginia was not an “inconvenient forum” pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) , where Wife alleged domestic violence, and where the Maine court which initially awarded Wife a temporary protective order concurred with the Virginia court’s determination that the Virginia court was not an inconvenient forum.  Va. Code §20-146.18   requires a trial court to consider all relevant factors of Va. Code §20-146.18(B)   in determining whether it is an inconvenient forum, including “whether domestic violence has occurred and is likely to continue in the future and which state could best protect the parties and child.”

2007—Swalef v. Anderson, 50 Va. App. 100
Trial court did not err when it declined to exercise jurisdiction over the custody petition filed by Father.  The court did not abuse its discretion when it deferred to the authority of an Indian reservation tribal court in Minnesota.  The evidence was clear that the children have been out of Virginia for several years.  Mother and the maternal grandparents are within the jurisdiction of the tribal court.  The Virginia courts have no outstanding order determining custody of these children.  All of the current information regarding their care, education, relationships, and other matters was located in and around the Indian reservation.           

2006—Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins, 49 Va. App. 88
Trial court erred in failing to recognize that the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act   barred its exercise of jurisdiction in custody dispute where Vermont court entered an order awarding birth Mother temporary legal and physical custody of child and giving partner temporary child contact rights as part of Civil Union Dissolution and where Vermont court additionally issued an order establishing continuing jurisdiction.

1999—Scott v. Rutherfoord , 30 Va. App. 176
Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA), Virginia Circuit Court had continuing jurisdiction even after former Husband, former Wife, and their children moved to D.C., where D.C. court declined to exercise jurisdiction, Husband sought to re-litigate issues, and parties continued to have significant connection with Virginia.

1997—Johnson v. Johnson , 26 Va. App. 135
Mother wrongfully retained child in Sweden in violation of Virginia court order.  Virginia retained jurisdiction pursuant to Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA).  Father granted sole custody and Mother found to be in contempt.

1996—D’Agnese v. D’Agnese , 22 Va. App. 147
Trial court erred in assuming jurisdiction over child custody where an Illinois court had granted mother an emergency protective order, based on allegations of abuse by the father, prior to the initiation by father of proceedings in Virginia. Although the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act allowed the court in Virginia to refuse to defer to the Illinois court if it found that wife had taken the children to Illinois for the sole purpose of establishing jurisdiction, the Virginia court conceded that the Illinois court had obtained proper emergency jurisdiction pursuant to the Act. Upon doing so, the Virginia court was required to defer to the Illinois court’s jurisdiction. Thus, to contest the Illinois court’s jurisdiction, father was required to object in Illinois court, which he failed to do.

1996—Barnes v. Barnes , Va. Ct. of Appeals, Unpublished, No. 2774-95-4
Trial court did not err in concluding that Colorado was more appropriate forum for adjudicating custody and visitation where (i) the children had resided in Colorado at all times, with the exception of one five-week period in which they resided in Virginia; and (ii) substantial evidence concerning the children’s present and future care, protection, training and personal relationships was present in Colorado. The trial court did not err in considering the events and circumstances of the four years that the children were present in Colorado between the time that father initially filed for divorce in Virginia and the time of the hearing, as a consideration of the circumstances in existence at the time of the hearing was appropriate and necessary. (Decided under provisions of former Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA), which was subsequently repealed and replaced with the provisions of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)).

    (F)  Relocation

2014—Wheeler v. Wheeler , Va. Court of Appeals, Unpublished No. 2230-14-1
The trial court did not err by allowing Mother to relocate out-of-state with the children. In deciding whether to grant a parent’s relocation request, the child’s welfare is of paramount importance. A trial court must deny the relocation request if it finds that relocation is not in the child’s best interests. If maintaining the status quo is in the child’s best interests, the court shall deny any requests to change custody and order the status quo be maintained. Here, prior to the parties’ separation, the family’s status quo was for Father and the children to relocate with Mother based on her orders from the Navy. Because Mother testified that she would separate from the Navy if the court denied her relocation request, the children would lose a significant source of stability including Mother’s income, health insurance, and other military benefits. Such circumstances would disrupt the status quo.

2014—Wheeler v. Wheeler , Va. Court of Appeals, Unpublished No. 2230-14-1
In granting Mother’s request to relocate out-of-state with the children, the trial court did not err in considering the effect that a denial of relocation would have on Mother’s military career. A court may consider the benefit to the parent from relocation only if the move independently benefits the children. Advantages accruing to a custodial parent from relocation oftentimes inure to the child’s benefit. Here, although the relocation would benefit Mother because she would have continued employment in the Navy, the children would also benefit from the relocation because Mother would continue to earn a regular income and provide the children’s health insurance and other military benefits.

2014—Wheeler v. Wheeler , Va. Court of Appeals, Unpublished No. 2230-14-1
In granting Mother’s request to relocate to California with the children, the trial court did not err in finding that the children’s relationship with Father would not be substantially impaired. Frequently, a non-custodial parent experiences difficulty maintaining a parental relationship with the child when the custodial parent relocates. However, this added difficulty should not be the sole basis for restricting a custodial parent’s residence except where the benefits of the relationship with the non-custodial parent cannot be substantially maintained. Here, the trial court provided Father extensive in-person visitation with the Children in California. Nevertheless, Father testified that he would not visit the children in California because he had an intense fear of flying. Father’s fears prevented him from maintaining a relationship with the children, not the trial court.

2013—White v. White , 718 F. 3d 300 (4th Cir.)U.S. Ct. of Appeals, 4th Circuit, No. 12-1835
The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the district court that a mother did not violate the Hague Convention when she relocated from Switzerland to the United States with her minor son. At the time of the relocation, custody and visitation of the child was governed by a separation agreement under Swiss law. The separation agreement awarded custody of the child to the mother and visitation to the father. Under Swiss law, a parent who holds exclusive custody is entitled to move with the child without authorization from the court or another parent. Nevertheless, the parent cannot relocate with the child if the relocation poses a serious threat to the wellbeing of the child. In this case, the evidence regarding the mother’s motivation for relocating to the United States, principally to seek medical attention for the child, supports the trial court’s finding that the relocation did not threaten the well-being of the child. A subsequent order issued by a Swiss court, awarding custody to the father, has no effect on the lawfulness of the mother’s prior relocation with the child.

2011—Garner v. Ruckman , Va. Ct. of Appeals, Unpublished, No. 0344-11-4
Trial court erred in finding that mother failed to make a prima facie case that her relocation to Pennsylvania was in the child’s best interests, and thus, erred in granting father’s motion to strike. The child was seven at the time of the hearing, had been primarily with the mother since birth, and had had limited visitation with the father until very recently. While mother attempted to expand father’s role in the child’s life, father refused reasonable requests of the mother to see the child during the Christmas holiday. Moreover, evidence on the record revealed significant concerns about the father’s ability to appropriately care for the child while in his care and provide a suitable, stable home environment for him.

The trial court also erred in concluding that the relocation only benefited the mother, and not the child. The mother had been evicted from her home in Virginia and was destitute, due in part, to father’s failure to pay child support. She had family and a support system in Pennsylvania, where she and the child had stable housing and financial support. Moreover, she remarried upon her move and was now able to be a stay-at-home mother for the child. While the court may consider a benefit to the parent from relocation only if the move independently benefits the children, advantages accruing to a custodial parent from relocation oftentimes inure to the benefit of a child and should be taken into account.

2010—Chorbaji v. Simpson , Va. Ct. of Appeals, Unpublished, No. 2910-08-4
Trial court did not err in permitting wife to move out of state with the child, based on evidence that wife was the primary caregiver and that husband’s actions toward wife and child amounted to abuse. There was further evidence that wife’s family lived in Illinois, that wife’s father was ill, and that wife’s house was too small to meet her family’s needs.

2009—Krusell v. Al-Rayes, Va. Ct. of Appeals, Unpublished, Record No. 0922-09-4
The trial court did not err in prohibiting mother from relocating with the children to Massachusetts.  Although the court found that the foreseeable deterioration of mother’s finances, father’s move to suitable housing close to the children, and father’s employment in the area were changes in circumstances since the last custody order, the court did not err in finding that the changes were not sufficient to satisfy mother’s burden of proving a material change in circumstances on which the court might grant her request to relocate with the children to Massachusetts.  Furthermore, mother’s primary motivation for moving – to allow her and the children to live rent-free with mother’s parents while mother attended a graduate school program – did not independently benefit the children, who were doing well in school, were happy, and were well adjusted.  Father had a good relationship with the children, and the court found that the relationship would be adversely affected if the mother and the children relocated.

2009—Judd v. Judd , 53 Va. App. 578
Wife met her burden of proving that relocation of the parties’ children (ages 4 and 6) to Wisconsin would not substantially impair Husband’s relationship with the parties’ children.  Evidence showed that Husband’s active involvement in the children’s lives was “recent history,” and only developed after Husband learned that Wife was keeping a detailed log of his behavior toward the children in anticipation of the divorce.  Trial court found that Wife was committed to encouraging visits with Husband, as demonstrated by the detailed visitation schedule that Wife proposed, which included four weeks for the Husband during the summer and an agreement by Wife to bear the cost of transporting the children to and from Virginia for all visits.  

Wife also met her burden of proving that relocation was in the children’s best interests, with evidence
that she would have more time with the children after the move, that living in Wisconsin was less costly than in Virginia, that Wife’s extended family and their families all resided in Wisconsin, and that the “children were of an age (ages 4 and 6) and stage in life where they had not developed ties to friends and places in Virginia such that a move would be difficult for them.”

No statute sets out standards under which permission to relocate should be granted or denied.  We have reasoned that the relocation issue is best understood under traditional constructs governing custody and visitation, and thus, that the “best interests” standard governs.  Because both the custody and relocation determinations are governed by the “best interests” standard, considering both issues in one proceeding serves judicial economy. 

2007—Masters v. Sutton, Va. Ct. of Appeals, Unpublished, No. 2379-06-4
Trial court did not err in approving relocation of Mother and child to Pennsylvania, as child’s best interests were served by the relocation.  Mother remarried and her husband accepted a job in Pennsylvania.  The evidence showed that the Father was currently unable to provide the child with a lifestyle of stability and structure.  In addition, the child had some special education needs which Mother had accurately assessed and addressed.  Mother was relocating to an area which Father could reach by car in about three hours.

2007—Priest v. Credle, Va. Ct. of Appeals, Unpublished, No. 1072-06-1
Father’s request to relocate children to Florida was denied and primary physical custody was awarded to Mother.  The children’s guardian ad litem recommended that staying in Williamsburg was in the children’s best interest.  There was evidence in the record that the children have lived in Williamsburg all of their lives, all of the children’s friends live in Williamsburg, and any type of extended family that the children have any type of relationship with also live in Williamsburg.  The record further establishes that sending the children to Florida would significantly curtail Mother’s relationship with the children, and hamper her involvement in their schooling and other activities.

2006—Surles v. Mayer, 48 Va. App. 146
Trial court did not err in approving relocation of Mother and child to Florida, as daughter’s best interests were served by the relocation.  Daughter was happy and well-adjusted in new environment, all of her maternal relatives lived there, and her allergies no longer bothered her there.

2004—Wheeler v. Wheeler , 42 Va. App. 282
In determining whether to modify a decree giving a custodial parent permission to remove children from the state, the court must find: (1) a material change in circumstances since the prior decree; and (2) that relocation would be in the children’s best interests. The added difficulty in maintaining a beneficial relationship between the children and the non-custodial parent should not be the sole basis for restricting a custodial parent’s residence except where the benefits of the relationship cannot be substantially maintained if the child is moved away from the non-custodial parent.

Trial court did not err in allowing mother to relocate with the children to Florida. Mother’s deteriorating financial situation in Northern Virginia, and the likelihood that she and the children would be required to move from their current home due to financial troubles anyway were sufficient to establish a material change in circumstances. The court further found that the children would benefit from the move to Florida because the move would improve the mother and children’s financial situation such that the mother could continue being a stay-at-home mother, and would provide the children a support system which included their maternal grandmother and the step-siblings they would gain through mother’s pending remarriage. Additionally, the court noted that the status quo in Northern Virginia was going to change, as the mother and children were going to have to relocate from their current home regardless of whether they moved to Florida or to somewhere else in Northern Virginia. While the court acknowledged that the move would make visitation with father less convenient, it held that father’s already strong bond with the children would not likely by broken or impaired by the absence of physical proximity.

2004—Sullivan v. Sullivan , 42 Va. App. 794
Trial court did not err in considering changes in circumstances that occurred between the time that the trial court entered an order allowing mother to relocate with the child and the time that the Court of Appeals reversed that order when considering mothers petition for modification of custody. If the court could not retroactively approve a move or order a change in custody after an unapproved relocation has taken place, having before it evidence that the relocation of the children or the modification of custody would be in the best interests of the children, the court would be required to act contrary to the best interests of the children, (citing Parish v. Spaulding , 257 Va. 357 (1999)).

2003—Petry v. Petry , 41 Va. App. 782
Trial court did not err in allowing mother to relocate with the children to New York upon entering the final divorce decree. The court distinguished this case from Sullivan v. Knick, 38 Va. App. 773 (2002), where the court prohibited mother’s relocation with the children to South Carolina so that her new husband could be closer to a child of his previous marriage, based on the following facts: (i) the father here had abdicated the majority of parenting responsibilities throughout the marriage; (ii) the children had spent almost all holidays and substantial portions of each year in New York, and had significant contacts there, including both maternal and paternal grandparents as well as other family and friends; (iii) the post-relocation visitation awarded by the court was not significantly different from the visitation father had enjoyed while the parties remained in the same city for the twelve-month separation prior to the divorce decree; (iv) husband had the job-flexibility and financial resources to maintain that visitation with the children in New York; and (v) the relocation, though it benefited the mother, did not otherwise conflict with the children’s best interests.

2002—Goodhand v. Kildoo , 37 Va. App. 591
The trial court did not err in concluding that a child’s best interest would be served by allowing mother to relocate the child to Arizona. Despite father maintaining an active role in the child’s life, the child’s psychologist testified that the physical separation might potentially hurt the bond between her and her father, but that it might not affect the relationship at all. Furthermore, the trial court found that, although the father played a significant role, the mother had nonetheless been the child’s primary caregiver.

The trial court did not err in rejecting father’s contention that a presumption of “harm” should be imposed in relocation cases. Virginia law simply requires a court to consider and weigh the necessary factors in order to determine both whether a change in custody is in the best interest of the child, and whether relocation is in the best interest of the child. In relocation matters, the moving party also bears the burden of proving that relocation will not cause a substantial impairment to the relationship between the non-moving parent and the child. The mother met that burden here.

2002—Sullivan v. Knick, 38 Va. App. 773
Mother’s request to relocate with child denied.  The beneficial relationship between the child and the Father must not be placed at risk to disadvantage the child.

2001— Cloutier v. Queen , 35 Va. App. 413
Virginia Code §20-124.3 factors govern whether relocation is in a child’s best interests.  The interests to be assessed are solely the child’s and do not include the custodial parent’s interests. 

(Return to top of page)

Previous Page | Next Page