New York Court Discusses Determining Whether to Allow a Parent to Relocate a Child

When a couple with children decides to end their marriage, their primary concern is often determining an arrangement that best suits their children’s needs. In many cases, this will involve an agreement to live in a certain geographical area. The courts will typically adopt such an agreement if they find it to be in a child’s best interest. As demonstrated in a recent New York case, if a parent unilaterally decides to violate a geographical order or agreement and relocate a child, it may negatively impact the parent’s custody rights. If you have concerns about safeguarding your parental rights, it is advisable to speak to a New York child custody lawyer.

Case Setting

It is alleged that the mother and the father, parents of three children, entered into a separation agreement in June 2019, which was modified by an addendum in November 2019. They agreed to share joint legal custody, with the mother having primary physical custody and the father having specific parenting time. They also agreed not to move more than 50 miles from their current residence without court consent or written consent from the other parent. A final judgment of divorce in March 2020 incorporated this agreement and addendum.

Reportedly, in May 2022, the mother filed a petition seeking sole legal custody, claiming a breakdown in communication. In August 2022, the father filed a petition for modification, arguing that the mother had moved beyond the agreed 50-mile limit to enroll the children in a new school and sought primary physical custody. The trial court dismissed the mother’s petition, finding no breakdown in communication, but granted the father’s petition for the oldest child, allowing him to continue attending his former school. The younger children’s custodial arrangement remained unchanged, and the court set a parenting time schedule for all three children. The mother appealed the trial court’s decision.

Determining Whether to Allow a Parent to Relocate a Child

On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling. In its analysis, the court explained that both parties acknowledged a change in circumstances since the 2020 divorce judgment. Specifically, the court determined that the mother’s move and her unilateral decision to enroll the children in a new school met the threshold for a change in circumstances.

The main issue on appeal, then, was whether the trial court’s decision served the best interests of the oldest child. In assessing this, the court considered factors such as the parents’ home environments, the need for stability, willingness to promote positive relationships, past performance, and the child’s intellectual and emotional development.

The court noted that while the parents had some disagreements, they were able to communicate effectively about the children, making joint legal custody feasible. The court further explained that the decision to grant the father primary physical custody of the oldest child was based on the child’s need for stability, better academic performance, and his preference to remain in his former school district despite separating him from his younger siblings.

Additionally, the court gave considerable weight to the child’s expressed desire and the attorney for the children’s support for the father’s primary custody. Based on the foregoing, the court found no reason to overturn the trial court’s findings and upheld the order, ensuring that it was in the best interests of the oldest child to reside primarily with the father.

Meet with an Experienced New York Child Custody Attorney to Discuss Your Case

Although most parents want what is best for their children, co-parents will often disagree as to what that entails and will turn to the courts to determine their parental rights. If you need help defining or protecting your custody rights, it is wiseto meet with an attorney as soon as possible.   Ksenia Rudyuk is an experienced New York child custody attorney who can assess the facts of your case and help you seek a ruling that benefits your child and protects your parental rights. You can reach Ms. Rudyuk by calling 212-706-2001 or by using our online form to arrange a conference.

Contact Information