Relocating will surely change a child's relationship to each parent and possibly to extended family, friends, school, and community. Thus, New York courts review relocation cases very carefully to make sure that the child's best interests will be served by the move.
This article explains how New York courts decide whether to allow a custodial parent to move with a child. For all of our articles on New York family law, see our New York Divorce and Family Law page.
When deciding whether to allow a custodial parent to relocate a child, New York courts must consider each individual case and all relevant facts and circumstances, with the predominant emphasis being placed on the best interests of the child.
The Best Interests of the Child
In the Tropea v. Tropea case, the New York Court of Appeals emphasized that each relocation request must be considered individually, taking into account all of the relevant facts and circumstances to decide what outcome is most likely to serve the best interests of the child. While the rights of the parents are significant factors that must be considered, the child's rights and needs must be given the greatest weight.
The relationship between parent and child is very different after a divorce. The Tropea court pointed out that it "may be unrealistic in some cases to try to preserve the noncustodial parent's accustomed close involvement in the children's everyday life at the expense of the custodial parent's efforts to start a new life or to form a new family unit."
In some cases, the interests of the child might be better served if the court allows the relocation and grants visitation that gives the noncustodial parent the best opportunity to maintain a positive, nurturing relationship with the child despite the move.
In other cases, however, the child's best interests might be served by a change in custody. If the noncustodial parent is interested in securing custody, and a child's ties to the noncustodial parent and to the current community are so strong as to make a long-distance move undesirable, transferring custody to the noncustodial parent might be a better option than forcing the custodial parent to remain.
Or, the best solution might be for the noncustodial parent to move as well. If the custodial parent's reasons for moving are valid, the court may consider the possibility and feasibility of a parallel move by an involved and committed noncustodial parent as an alternative to restricting a custodial parent's mobility.
Factors the Court will Consider
Courts deciding relocation cases will consider all of the facts and circumstances of each case, including, but not limited to, the following:
- each parent's reasons for seeking or opposing the move
- the quality of the relationship and attachment between the child and each of the parents
- the impact of the move on the quantity and quality of the child's future contact with the noncustodial parent
- the negative impact (if any) of continued or worsened hostility between the parents
- the impact the move will have on the child's extended family relationships
- the degree to which the custodial parent/child's lifestyles may be enhanced economically, emotionally, and educationally by the move, and
- the feasibility of preserving a meaningful relationship between the noncustodial parent and child through suitable visitation arrangements.
Even if the move would leave the noncustodial parent without meaningful access, relocation may still be allowed by weighing the effect of any losses that will result against several factors, including:
- the custodial parent's reasons for wanting to relocate
- the benefits that the child may enjoy if the move is permitted (for example health, economic, and educational), and
- the harm that may ensue if the move is not permitted.
In addition, a second marriage of the custodial parent or opportunity to improve his or her economic situation is also a valid reason for permitting the relocation if the overall impact on the child would be beneficial.
If your child's custodial parent wants to relocate or you have custody of your child and want to relocate, consider consulting with an experienced family law attorney who can explain how courts in your area handle these cases and what you will need to prove in order to convince the court that your child's best interests will be met by your request.