Judd v. Judd (Va. App., Record No. 1705-08-4, March 24, 2009) affirms a Culpeper Circuit Court decision of  J. Howe Brown, Jr., authorizing a woman and two children to relocate from Virginia to Wausau, Wisconsin.

            [The required 30-day statutory notice of intent to relocate may be provided far in advance even if the move does not occur for months and the notice includes no new residence address, according to the decision. I agree such a notice meets the requirements of the statute.]

             The Court of Appeals appears to validate six factors for deciding a relocation case. In my professional opinion, these considerations may cause trouble in the future.

Factor

Reason for Concern

1. The Mother offers to pay the cost of the children returning from Wisconsin to Virginia for visitation with the Father.

In this case the Mother has more money than the Father if she relocates.  Favoring the parent with more money may not be in the best interest of children.

 

2. Mom’s Virginia employment and flexible schedule may be jeopardized by “her boss’ impending departure”.

 

The Court should never base a custody decision on hypothetical events. Mom is working; her future possible unemployment should not even be considered.

 

3. The Wife has a “killer commute” in Virginia.

A generic factor that almost always favors the parent seeking to leave Northern Virginia does not have anything to do with a child’s best interests.

 

4. Wausau, Wisconsin has a lower cost of living than Culpeper County, Virginia.

Comparative demographics are a slippery slope.  The relocating parent might have lower expenses in the Midwest, but what about comparing school quality and cultural opportunities? Lower expenses should not be weighed at all.

 

5. The children had visited Wisconsin, and had more relatives there than in Virginia.

Blood relatives are not about a head-count or the frequency of visits. In other words, children are not necessarily better off living somewhere because it has more family.

 

6. In Wisconsin, Wife will place the children in private school at her sole expense; but they would continue in public school in Virginia.

Courts should be wary of tilting custody awards based upon which parent promises to spend more. Best interests are not about which parent has more money.

 

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