“Who does she think she is?” If you are asking that about your children’s mother, she has probably said something truly daft, like trying to tell you where you and your child can live. We are here to test that idea. (Hint: she fails the test, except for one very peculiar situation).
Can You Live Anywhere You Want?
Only a Virginia judge can order a parent to live in a certain place, such as within a county, within the state, or within the United States. This has to do with child custody and parental visitation (and in some cases, with child safety). Unless a court order prevents you, you can live anywhere you want.
The mother of your children has no special legal authority to dictate any terms of a child custody arrangement to you. As we said, though, one very peculiar situation is possible:
- Say you are married to a Virginia judge. Virginia’s Court of Appeals, for example, has four female judges. We have no idea how many of the court’s 11 judges have kids, but let’s assume those four female judges all have children, and by some [extremely] odd coincidence, you are the father of one of those kids!
- Those judges are among the very few Virginians who could tell you where you and your child could live, because they can issue court orders.
So, unless you are married to a Virginia judge, your children’s mother cannot tell you where you and your child can live, simply because she does not issue court orders.
(And, now that we got that silliness out of the way, we hope you realize a Virginia judge enmeshed in a custody hearing over her own children would recuse herself. We love our Virginia judges! Your honors.)
She cannot tell you what to feed the kids, how to dress them, or whether they can stay up to watch a favorite television show. You are still the children’s parent, and you still have rights and responsibilities for your kids, even if you and she part ways.
In a Box?
Now, do not misunderstand. While your child’s mother cannot dictate where and how you live, government officials can prevent you from living in squalor. You cannot live in a box, with a fox, or if your house is wall to wall with mouse … mice. You must live in a safe, secure dwelling for the health and safety of your child, but that can be in just about any neighborhood, city, county, or country lane.
What about taking the kids to Alaska, or Nebraska? Can you move to Austin, or Boston? Can your kids pack and go to Illinois, or move to Troy?
Here things get dicier, and not because of the children’s mother. A court order dictating terms of child custody and parenting time may stipulate that you stay “reasonably close” to your original home, that is, the home your children lived in at the time you and the kids’ mom parted ways. She needs to be in their lives, if for no other reason than Code of Virginia § 20-124.3:
“…the court shall consider the following: … 6. The propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent, including whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent access to or visitation with the child;
7. The relative willingness and demonstrated ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child, and the ability of each parent to cooperate in and resolve disputes regarding matters affecting the child;”
If you have custody of your children, you need to stay close enough to their mother so that she is maintaining a “close and continuing relationship.” The court’s order may not dictate which house or apartment, but it can keep you more or less in the same geographic area.
Says Who? The Court, That’s Who.
The only way your children’s mother can affect the child custody arrangements is through a petition to the court, or during the original negotiations to arrange custody. Her attorney may assertively — aggressively? — try to dictate terms to you, in hopes a judge will sign off on the agreement.
That is why your fair and zealous representation by a knowledgeable family law attorney is so vital, all through the process but especially during the early stages of drafting child custody arrangements. A good attorney will preserve your rights, not allow the children’s mother to dictate terms, and will also protect your children.
You may not recognize when the mother of your children, or her attorney, is trying to push you around. Your attorney will know and can work hard to keep your home, your children’s well-being, and your rights intact.
Call Our Child Custody Lawyers in Virginia Beach
With a call to The Firm For Men at 757-383-9184, or with an online contact, you can get answers to all types of custody questions, from simple to complex. Our experienced Virginia Beach custody lawyers know Virginia and federal law inside and out. And, uh, we love and respect our Virginia judges. Just to be clear. Your honors.