After a divorce in West Virginia (WV), parents who live near enough often enjoy regular parenting time with their children. One parent’s plan to move can seriously upset the delicate balance created in a working parenting plan or aggravate an already contentious situation. In 2021, the West Virginia Legislature revised the WV relocation statute, which sets out the procedure to follow when one parent moves in WV after a divorce.
The relocation statute, WV Code § 48-9-403, imposes several requirements on the parent seeking to relocate with the child. The statute is complicated. Working with an experienced southern WV child custody relocation lawyer is essential to protecting your family.
What Is the WV Relocation Statute?
After a divorce divides a family, parents work hard to keep things as normal for their children as possible. In the best circumstances, they live close enough to cooperatively co-parent and have a family life with the children. The relocation of one parent can wreak havoc on the existing parenting plan, making it more expensive to travel between households if not impractical or downright impossible.
At a minimum, a divorced parent planning to relocate with the child needs to understand the process required by the WV relocation statute before taking concrete steps to move. Following the technical requirements, such as timely filing formal notice of the move, merely gets the ball rolling. Once the matter is filed, the court must evaluate the request, but the standard to be applied varies depending on when your parenting plan was established.
Here, a southern WV child custody relocation lawyer outlines some of the basic features of the relocation statute, namely, an overview of the process for getting court permission to relocate and the impact that permission can have on the parenting plan.
Court Permission is Required before Relocation with a Child after a WV Divorce
First and foremost, the WV relocation statute requires a parent who plans to relocate to give notice of the planned relocation to the court at least 90 days before the planned move. The notice itself is fairly simple, requiring the following information:
- The date of the planned relocation;
- The new address;
- The specific reason for relocating;
- The relocating parent’s proposal for changes to the existing parenting plan to accommodate the relocation; and
- Information about how the other parent may respond to the request for relocation, the proposed changes to the parenting plan, or both.
- And a mandatory request for a Court hearing.
However, the failure to timely file the notice—or to file the notice at all—can be costly. The court may use that failure as a factor in determining whether the filing parent has good cause for relocating and may order that parent to pay the other parent’s reasonable expenses and attorney’s fees.
The Parenting Plan May Change When One Parent Moves in WV
If the relocation makes maintaining the existing allocation of parental responsibility impossible, then the court must modify the parenting plan. In doing so, the court must determine whether the plan to move is in good faith, for a legitimate purpose, and to a reasonable location under the circumstances. Following are some factors that can affect this determination:
- The move will take the family closer to significant support networks, such as other family;
- The move is necessary for significant health reasons;
- The move will help keep another household member from significant harm; or
- The move allows the parent to pursue a significant educational or employment opportunity or to be with a spouse who is established or pursuing a significant educational or employment opportunity at the new location.
- The relocation statute now recognizes relocation to be with significant others, not just spouses, under specifically defined circumstances.
If the court determines that the parent seeking to move has met the statutory burden to show good faith, a legitimate cause, and a reasonable location, then the court must determine the effect the move would have on the existing parenting plan.
The 2021 Changes to the WV Relocation Statute Create a More Complex Process
As noted, the legislature made significant changes to the relocation law in 2021. These changes fundamentally changed the criteria, reasoning, and analysis required of the court when one parent requests to relocate with the parties’ child. This can arise due to job transfers, promotions, new and better job prospects, remarriage or co-habitation .
Whether you’re a nurse working as locum tenens, a coalminer transferred across the state, someone moving to be with your new spouse or significant other, or someone opposing your former spouse’s relocation with your children, discussing your case with a family lawyer can be critical to your success in the matter. Southern WV child custody relocation lawyer Jason Harwood of Harwood Legal, PLLC is an experienced family law attorney. A former family court judge, Jason uses his deep experience to help southern West Virginia families in divorce, child custody, child support, relocation, and related cases. Before you start packing, learn how the WV relocation statute affects your case. You can schedule an appointment with Jason by calling 304-752-5015 or by completing this online contact form.