Can I Relocate To A New Area With My Children?

It is not uncommon for a custodial parent wanting to relocate to a new geographical area.  The desired move might be to a different city, different county or even a different state.  When parents are no longer together, and the non-custodial parent has visitation rights, relocation to a new geographical area may require judicial permission. 

If you are the custodial parent of a child and want to relocate, or if you are the non-custodial parent and the custodial parent wants to relocate, you should consult with experienced child custody attorneys.  The custodial parent may need to file a petition in Family Court for judicial permission to relocate.  The non-custodial parent may need to file an Order to Show Cause to block the move pending further proceedings.  If a parent seeks to relocate with a child (or children), she or he bears "the burden of proving by a preponderance of the credible evidence that the proposed relocation would be in the child's best interests".  Batchelder v. Bonhotel, 106 A.D.3d 1395, 1396 (3rd Dept. 2013). 

The law firm of Jackson Bergman, LLP, 477 State Street, Binghamton, New York, has litigated relocation cases in Broome County Family Court and Tioga County Family Court.  These cases can be complicated, involved, and emotionally draining.  When handling a relocation case, we evaluate and compare (where the custodial parent lives and where she or he wants to move to) employment/financial opportunities, number of relatives in the two areas and nature of their respective relationships to the child, the school districts, current and available extracurricular activities, housing, neighborhoods, child's desires, nature and amount of visitation/contact the non-custodial parent has with the child, etcetera.

When we have a client that wants to move to a new area with their child or that wants to stop the custodial parent from moving with the child, that client usually asks what factors Family Court will consider. Our answer is twofold:  Best Interests of the Child and Tropea.  And the usual response we get is, "Huh?"  Here is an expansion of our twofold response of "Best Interests of the Child and Tropea".  In the final analysis, Family Court's decision will always be based upon what is in the child's best interest.  But how does Family Court decide what is in a child's best interests? 

The Court of Appeals, the State of New York's highest court, in Tropea v. Tropea, 87 N.Y.2d 727 (1996), identified numerous factors Family Court can consider when ruling on a custodial parent's relocation application:

1.)      “[T]he impact of the move on the relationship between the child and the noncustodial parent” which includes an analysis of “the effect of the quantitative and qualitative losses that naturally will result”;

2.)      “[T]he custodial parent’s reasons for wanting to relocate”;

3.)      “[T]he benefits that the child may enjoy or the harm that may ensue if the move is or is not permitted”;

4.)      “[E]conomic necessity”;

5.)      “[H]ealth related concern”;

6.)      “[D]emands of a second marriage and the custodial parent’s opportunity to improve his or her economic situation”;

7.)      “[T]he non-custodial parent’s interest in securing custody, as well as the feasibility and desirability of a change in custody”;

8.)      “[F]easibility of a parallel move”;

9.)      “[T]he good faith of the parents in requesting or opposing the move”;

10.)    “[T]he child’s respective attachments to the custodial and noncustodial parent”;

11.)    “[T]he possibility of devising a visitation schedule that will enable the noncustodial parent to maintain a meaningful parent-child relationship”;

12.)    “[T]he quality of the life-style that the child would have if the proposed move were permitted or denied”;

13.)    “[T]he negative impact, if any, from continued or exacerbated hostility between the custodial and noncustodial parents”;

14.)    “[T]he effect that the move may have on any extended family relationships”; and

15.)    “[A]ny other facts or circumstances that have a bearing on the  parties’ situation”.

Tropea, 87 N.Y.2d at 739 – 740.