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Limits on a Custodial Parent’s Right to Relocate with a Child

We live in a fluid society, where people are not always bound to one geographical area for life. A person may move far away or even out of state for various reasons. But when a parent who is subject to a child custody order contemplates such a move, there can be legal implications. While New York law doesn’t strictly prohibit such a relocation, it does impose procedural requirements to ensure the move doesn’t significantly disrupt the child’s relationship with the other parent.

A custodial parent intending a long-distance relocation with a child must provide advance written notice to the other parent. The notice should include the planned date, the new address and the reasons behind the relocation. The notice also should give the non-custodial parent ample time to understand and respond to as to whether or not they consent to the relocation.

If the non-custodial parent objects to the proposed move, the custodial parent must obtain court approval prior to the relocation. The party moving must demonstrate that the move is in the child’s best interest. They must further prove what the proposed new schedule will be should the relocation be granted. New York does not define a pre-set distance for a relocation that requires court permission. However, oftentimes a custody agreement has a radius within which a party can move without needing court permission. If it is not within an agreed upon radius, the courts apply a case-by-case analysis, focusing solely on the child’s best interests. The court will consider the child’s age, maturity level and existing relationship with both parents. They will also consider the frequency of the visits with the non-custodial parent. 

The relocating parent has the burden of demonstrating that the move is ultimately beneficial for the child’s well-being and in their best interests. This can be done by submitting evidence of any or all of the following:

  • Improved living conditions — The move may offer a better job opportunity for the custodial parent, leading to a more stable and financially secure environment for the child.
  • Educational benefits —The new location may have superior schools, enriching the child’s educational prospects.
  • Family support network — The move could be closer to extended family, providing a stronger support system for the child.

The non-custodial parent gets a chance to present opposing arguments. They might highlight the negative impact of the move on their relationship with the child, showcasing the importance of maintaining a close bond. Evidence could include:

  • Frequent and consistent visitation history — This demonstrates the non-custodial parent’s active role in the child’s life.
  • Financial contributions — Proof of financial support strengthens their argument for continued involvement.
  • The child’s wishes (depending on age) — If the child is old enough to express an opinion, the court will consider their preference, although it is usually not the deciding factor.

In deciding on a relocation request, the court will favor solutions that minimize disruptions to the child’s life while upholding a healthy relationship with both parents. It is always advisable to speak with an experienced child custody attorney who understands the nuances of New York law concerning relocation and can protect your rights as a parent.

At Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia, LLP in St. James, New York, we advise divorcing and separating parents on all issues related to child custody and visitation. Contact us online or call us at 631-360-0400 to arrange a free initial consultation.