When granted your divorce on Long Island, either you or your partner will be awarded physical custody of your children. Given that the normal American household moves every five years, it is likely at some point in the future that the party who was awarded physical custody, the Custodial Parent, will desire to relocate and take the children with him or her.
What is the Governing Law on Long Island, NY?
The landmark case of Tropea v. Tropea focused on this issue and provided basic guidelines for what Nassau County and Suffolk County courts will look for when presented with the issue of the relocation of the custodial parent.
In Tropea, the parties’ judgment of divorce granted sole physical custody of the children to their mother, and Visitation rights to the father at least three days a week and on holidays. The agreement further prevented either parent from relocating outside of the county in which they currently resided without judicial approval.
A year after the judgment of divorce, the mother sought permission from the court to relocate two and a half hours outside of the marital county due to her plans to remarry. Because of the extended distance, the proposed residence of the mother and children would interfere with the father’s rights to mid-week visitation with his children. Naturally, the father contested the mother’s petition for relocation.
Prior to the court’s decision in Tropea, to determine relocation of a custodial parent courts used a three-step analysis that required inquiry into whether the relocation would deprive the non-custodial parent of “regular and meaningful access to the child.” If the court concluded that such interference did not exist, its inquiry stopped there. However, if such interference was shown, there was a rebuttable presumption that the move was not in the best interests of the child, requiring the custodial parent to show there were exceptional circumstances to justify the move. If the custodial parent could provide such information, the court would then look into the factual circumstances present to determine whether or not the move was in fact in the best interests of the child. Because this standard was difficult to apply and was rarely done so uniformly throughout the courts, the court in Tropea dispensed with the standard and created its own.
Custodial Parent Relocation Now Reviewed on a Case-by-Case Basis Focused on Best Interests of the Child or Children
Adopting what seems to be a more appropriate standard, instances of a custodial parent’s relocation are now analyzed on a case-by-case basis, focusing on the best interests of the children, which includes their wants and needs. Courts will also look to the effect the move will have on the child’s relationship with the noncustodial parent, any benefit or harm the child will receive if the move is or is not permitted, the economic reasons for the move, if the move is related to health-concerns, as well as the possibility and desirability of a change in custody of the children.
Do Visitation Rights Play a Role in the Relocation Analysis?
The noncustodial parent’s visitation rights play a large role in the Tropea analysis of custodial parent relocation. In this specific case, the mother was willing to work with the father to provide proper visitation, and drive the children to and from their father’s home for frequent and extended visits. Therefore, if you are a custodial parent discussing physical relocation with your divorce attorney, make sure you are aware that a court will be much more likely to grant you permission to relocate if you are willing to work with the noncustodial parent.
What Does this Mean for Me on Long Island?
If you are a custodial parent considering relocation outside of Nassau or Suffolk County, it is important to gather all facts surrounding why you desire to relocate, whether this will help or harm you economically, and the effects of such a move before you enter court (if it comes to that). Keep in mind however, that while you may desire to relocate in order to start your life anew, it is important to realize the implications this may have on your children. Divorce has the potential to be extremely hard on children, and a physical relocation may, at times, make a bad situation worse. Therefore, it may be in your best interest to discuss the issue of your relocation with the noncustodial parent before seeking permission to relocate from the court.
Be Sure to Consider and Address the Relocation Issue in Your Divorce Agreement
While it is customary for divorce agreements to include a stipulation restricting the custodial parent’s relocation, you and your partner can include any provision regarding custodial parent relocation you desire in your divorce decree. Therefore, it may be of importance for you, your spouse, and your divorce attorney to discuss what you will do if this situation were to arise before entering into your divorce agreement.
Questions About Child Custody and Visitation on Long Island?
To learn more about what you need to know about Child Custody on Long Island, visit this page on Child Custody or contact us at 631-923-1910 for a complimentary consultation.
Need Help with Your Divorce Agreement on Long Island?
If you need more help or advice addressing the potential relocation of the custodial parent on Long Island, give the caring, experienced divorce attorneys at Robert E. Hornberger, Esq., PC a call at 631-923-1910. We’ll be happy to arrange a consultation to discuss your concerns and how best to address them.