Does Joint Custody Prevent Parents from Moving?

New York has no set rules limiting a custodial parent's move. Courts will decide based on the child's best interests, considering aspects like their relationship with each parent, each parent's emotional stability, the existing co-parenting dynamics, the child's personal preference if they are mature enough to decide, the reasons for relocation, and each parent's ability to cater to the child's needs.

Courts generally try to avoid visitation disruptions, but they will consider various circumstances before deciding about relocation.

New York Parent Relocation

If you want to move, you must notify the person you share custody with in writing. Then, they have the right to file an objection. If they do, the court will get involved to assess whether the move aligns with the child's best interests.

Joint custody establishes that the child should spend time with both parents. If one of them moves away, that could disrupt the child's life and make it harder for a busier or less affluent parent to continue to spend enough time with them.

Whether you are moving for a fabulous job opportunity or to join your new spouse, you can't just relocate without court permission if the other parent has objected to the move. Doing so might result in loss of custody rights.

Deciding Factors for Courts Granting Relocation Permission in New York

As mentioned above, New York courts will consider a variety of factors when deciding on relocation cases. Let's analyze the most relevant ones.

1. Why Are You Relocating?

Courts want to know that you have a seriously important reason for wanting to relocate. If you want to relocate and keep your custody rights, your reason cannot be that you like LA better than New York. Even if you are moving because you cannot find work where you are, if the courts consider the child would greatly suffer if they had to change schools or move back and forth all the time, they may not permit you permission to relocate while maintaining the same custodial rights.

2. What Is The Co-Parenting Dynamic Like?

If you have been seeing your child once a week and the other parent does most of the parenting, the courts will likely decide that it is in the child's best interest to stay where they are, and that joint custody will no longer work if you move away.

On the other hand, if you do most of the parenting and provide most of the emotional and financial support for the child, the court may find that the child would be better off being close to you.

3. Impact on the Child's Education and Emotional Well-Being

If you want to move to a place where the child would have access to better schools, more family nearby, a better standard of living, and a better support network, the courts will likely decide that the move would be in the child's best interest.

4. Financial Aspects

If you want to move and have the means to travel frequently to see the child as often as usual, this can work in your favor. If you want to take the child away from a nurturing parent who doesn't have the means to travel and visit, this will work against you.

How to Object to Relocation

If you want to object to the other parent's relocation plans, you need to prove the following:

  • There is no serious justification for the move. For example, the person is moving for a job when they could find a similar job locally.
  • Your child is well adjusted where they are, and moving might have a negative impact on their emotional well-being.
  • The move would take the child away from nurturing family and friends.
  • The parent who is looking to move is only marginally involved in raising the child.

How to Prepare for a Relocation Hearing

If you notified the other party about your intention to move, and they objected, a relocation hearing will follow.

To prepare for the hearing, your New York Family Law Attorney may appoint experts to testify about the child's emotional state, local conditions in the new location, and financial and educational considerations. Your attorney may also call on witnesses to testify about your relationship with the child, the quality of the other party's parenting, etc.

If the court decides that the move is not in your child's best interest, they may give the other parent primary custody. For this reason, you need to consult with a very experienced New York Child Custody Lawyer before attending a relocation hearing.

Is There a Maximum Distance for Custodial Parent Relocation in New York?

There is no rule set in stone. Since joint custody orders generally establish that parents must remain within a specific area, for example, the NYC metro area, when you propose a move, the terms of the child custody agreement will likely have to be altered.

Can Moving Impact Child Support?

When you share custody of a child, a move implies a variety of expenses. If you move, who will pay for travel expenses to maintain visitation? This and other issues will have to be agreed on or decided in court.

It is important to note that even if one of the parents moves out of state, they can still be charged with failing to pay child support, as ordered by a New York court. Defaulting on child support payments is a federal crime, and living in another state does not protect the culprit from prosecution.

Relocation cases can be complex. There are simply too many factors to take into account. You need evidence, witnesses, and experts who can testify on your behalf. You must thoroughly research the new location and what it can offer your child regarding educational opportunities and connections with relatives. If the move will enable you to provide a higher standard of living for the child, that can also play a role.

Above all, courts want both custodial parents to have the ability to spend time with the child. Especially if you plan to move far away, you will need a bulletproof legal strategy to approve your relocation petition.

Our team of child custody specialists, expert witnesses, and litigators can help. Contact us today online or at 212.682.6222 for a complimentary consultation.


Karen Rosenthal

Karen B. Rosenthal is a partner and co-founder at matrimonial litigation firm Bikel Rosenthal & Schanfield LLP, where she brings 35 years of matrimonial law experience to bear in matters involving high-net-worth equitable distribution, contentious custody battles, and other high-stakes disputes. Certified as an Attorney for the Child and a frequent speaker on topics related to children going through high-conflict divorce, she has been recognized as a leading New York lawyer by Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, Crain's New York Business magazine, and New York magazine.

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