As an experienced Long Island Divorce Lawyer and Family Law Attorney, some of the more common questions I receive from couples splitting up concerns relocation after the divorce. These questions can come from either the custodial parent, as in, “Can I move with my children after the divorce?” or the noncustodial parent, as in, “Can I prevent her from moving with my children after the divorce?”.
Relocation involves the custodial parent attempting to effectuate a move with the parties’ child or children. This move may only be to the next town over, but more likely, especially if it is being brought to the Court’s attention, this move could be to another county, state, or even country.
Long Island Family Law Attorney Answers: Can Custodial Parents Relocate After Divorce?
Relocation After Divorce Can Be Stressful for Children
There is wide consensus across many different fields and professionals that a big move is a very drastic change in a child’s life, especially right after his or her parents decide on a divorce. Such a move can be the result of many different factors in the custodial parent’s life. Some might want to move closer to their own family, others might be attempting to remove a child from a dangerous situation, or move the child into a school district better suited to meet the child’s needs, or it could be the custodial parent is seeking to “start over” with a new job or a new spouse.
Relocation Issues Are Often Contested
The issue may quickly become contested between the parents if the noncustodial parent believes the custodial parent is seeking to relocate for their own individual reasons. These reasons may be the “starting over” discussed above, or maybe the custodial parent is seeking to reduce his or her commuting time.
Noncustodial Parent Has Rights to Oppose Relocation
Regardless of motive, the noncustodial has the right to oppose a Petition for Relocation or attempt to prevent relocation if he or she believes such a relocation will diminish meaningful contact between him or herself and the parties’ child or children. Absent an agreement between the parties, either party may Petition the Court with regards to a relocation. The custodial parent may petition the Court, again absent an agreement, if he or she wishes to relocate with the child, but the noncustodial parent may also petition the Court to oppose a relocation by a custodial parent.
Burden of Proof Is On Parent Seeking Relocation
When bringing, or opposing, a Relocation Petition, the burden of proof is placed on the parent seeking the relocation. What that means is that the custodial parent must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, the proposed move would be in the children’s best interests.
Long Island Courts’ Concern is with the Child
While a parent, as an individual, may certainly relocate as he or she wishes, the Court’s main concern is whether or not that individual may move with the child. With the relocation of a child, the foremost issue is usually, as a result of the move, the noncustodial parent will have reduced access to the child. On top of seeing a parent less often than the child has become accustomed to, both pre- and post-divorce, the child will likely be changing schools, leaving friends and relatives, changing sports teams and other extra-curricular activities. As a result of the move, the child will also likely experience disruptions in his or her educational and social stability.
Tropea v. Tropea
Notwithstanding the custodial parent’s right to relocate, as well as the noncustodial parent’s right to have meaningful access to his or her child, the ultimate concern of the Court will be the best interest of the child. To this end, the Court of Appeals, in 1996, heard and decided a seminal case on relocation, Tropea v. Tropea. This case consisted of two consolidated cases in which the custodial parent was seeking permission to move from the area in which the noncustodial parent resides. In both cases, the noncustodial parent opposed the move, believing that it would substantially reduce meaningful access to their children. Recognizing that “relocation cases … present some of the knottiest and most disturbing problems that courts are called upon to resolve,” the Court held “that each relocation request must be considered on its own merits with due consideration of all the relevant facts and circumstances, and with predominant emphasis being placed on what outcome is most likely to serve the best interests of the child.”
What Courts on Long Island Consider Relevant in Relocation Cases
As a result of this case, the Court will typically consider some of the following:
- Each parent’s reasons for seeking or opposing the move, or, the “good faith” of the parents in requesting or opposing the move;
- The extent and quality of the child’s respective attachments to the custodial and noncustodial parent;
- The possibility of devising a visitation schedule that will enable a meaningful relationship to be maintained between the child and noncustodial parent;
- The quality of life the child would have if the proposed move were allowed or denied;
- The possible negative impact from continued or exacerbated hostility between the custodial and noncustodial parent; and
- The effect the move may have on extended family relationships, both positive and negative.
The Court will then make a determination, based on the totality of the circumstances and facts specific to your case, whether or not the move will be in the best interest of the child.
Consider Your Child’s Needs First
If you find yourself in a relocation situation, it is important to remember that it is not about “getting back” at the other parent, but rather, this may be a chance for a better life for your child. While no one wants to lose touch with their child, it is very possible to maintain a healthy, loving and meaningful relationship with your child after he or she has moved away. The best possible road forward is one in which you make the transition easiest for your child and share in their excitement for their new adventure.
If Relocation Issues May Be In Your Future, Contact an Experienced Long Island Divorce Lawyer or Family Law Attorney Today
In relocation situations it is crucial that you have an experienced Long Island Family Law Attorney to protect your rights, and, it is best to contact an attorney sooner rather than later. The family law firm of Robert E. Hornberger, Esq., P.C. can assist you during this stressful time and strongly advocate for you in court. Contact our office today at 631-923-1910 for a free consultation.
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