When parents divorce or don’t live under the same roof, each of them has certain rights and responsibilities with respect to a minor child. Issues regarding physical and legal custody under New York law, visitation, and logistical concerns will be specified in a court order, whether by agreement or after a hearing. However, it’s common for circumstances to change in the weeks and months after the order is entered. When one of the changes involves one parent relocating for work or personal reasons, the parties may need to address the existing arrangement for custody.
Fortunately, there are options for modifying a custody order to accommodate relocation. Whether you’re seeking to move or the parent that’s trying to fight it, it’s critical to retain a New York child custody attorney for assistance. Some general information about the process may also be helpful.
Relocation and the Best Interests of the Child: The most common scenario of relocation in the context of custody is when the residential parent wants to move further from the other parent’s home. The reasons for wanting to relocate typically center on job prospects, a new relationship, or other family issues. However, a parent cannot just move without permission from the court, which retains jurisdiction over issue related to the minor child.
When deciding whether one parent can take the child and move, a court refers to the best interests of the child standard. The key question is whether the child’s needs are served by relocating or staying; the desires and interests of the parents are lower on the list of priorities. The factors the judge reviews are known as Tropea factors after the case through which they were developed, and they include:
- Each parent’s grounds for wanting to move or objecting to relocation;
- The strength of the relationship between the child and each parent;
- How the move would affect the child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent;
- How much the relocating parent and child will experience enhanced lifestyles;
- The extent to which the relationship between the non-custodial parent and child can be preserved if the move is allowed.
Court Hearings Regarding Relocation: It’s possible for parents to agree upon relocation, though the court will still need to review the arrangement and apply the child’s best interests factors. When there are disputes on the issue, it’s necessary for the parent seeking relocation to file a petition for the request. The court will schedule a hearing to listen to both sides of the issue, which generally proceeds as follows:
- The parent requesting relocation will testify regarding good faith reasons for the move, with emphasis on how doing so will serve the child’s best interests. This is usually followed by questioning from the opposing attorney.
- The parent who opposes relocation will take the stand to testify and present evidence on why the move does not benefit the child.
- The judge may hear from a guardian ad litem, who may be appointed to act as an advocate on behalf of the child.
- After hearing testimony and evidence, the judge will go over the Tropea factors and make a decision.
A Skilled New York Child Custody Lawyer Can Assist with Relocation Proceedings
As you can see, working out parental relocation can be complicated, since a parent can’t just pick up and move without approval. Our team at The Mandel Law Firm advocates on behalf of parents who are seeking relocation and those opposing it, so we can assist no matter what your position on the matter. For more information, please contact us to set up a consultation regarding your circumstances. You can reach our Manhattan office by calling (646) 770-3868 or via our website.