How Could Relocation Affect Child Custody?

Life rarely turns out the way we’d planned, and sometimes change comes at unexpected times. If you share child custody with your ex, or if you the two of you have a visitation arrangement, any changes that impact one of your lives will inevitably affect the other. Big decisions like remarriage and career changes might prompt you to change the ways you split parenting time or the process you follow on pick-ups and drop-offs. So, if either you or your child’s other parent decide to relocate, it might make co-parenting a bit more complicated.

Relocating is a big decision, especially if you have children to consider. Job opportunities, more affordable living, and new relationships are often some of the biggest reasons people choose to relocate. However, if you share parenting responsibilities with your ex, you need to consider how your upcoming move could impact your child custody or visitation agreement.

New York Child Custody Laws & Relocation

Moving to a new town, state, or even a new country, could be a beneficial step, but only when all child custody matters are handled first. If the parent who is relocating has sole custody, that parent may be able to take the child with them on their move. When the noncustodial parent relocates, it is very unlikely the court will permit that parent to take the child with them when they move. If parents share custody, the relocation of one parent can be tricky, especially if the parents disagree about whether or not the child should move with the relocating parent or remain where he or she is.

Most states, New York included, will consider relocation of the child only when it is in the child’s best interest. So, if you and your co-parent are unable to decide how to handle the relocation, you will likely need to present your case to the court.

Defining the Child’s “Best Interest”

If the parents are able to agree about where the child will live after the relocation takes place, the court need not be involved in the custody change. But, the new custody arrangement should be made legally binding once the parents have reached an agreement. If the parents are unable to agree on the best plan for their child, the court will make the decision for them based on whichever choice is in the child’s best interest.

The court determines what to do about relocation on a case by case basis. There are no definitive rules regarding how the court will proceed, only that certain factors will be considered before the judge decides on the best possible option for the child.

The court will consider the following factors:

  • The reason for the parent’s relocation
  • Any reasons the non-moving parent opposes the relocation
  • The relationship the child has with either parent
  • The ability of each parent to effectively co-parent together
  • The impact the move could have on the child’s relationships with other family members, such as siblings, grandparents, etc.
  • The benefits the parent may experience if he or she relocates
  • The benefits the child can experience by relocating (educational, economic, cultural, etc.)
  • Ways in which the move may negatively impact the child

After reviewing these factors, the court will decide how custody will be awarded. In some cases, a shared custody arrangement will remain, or it might be changed to sole custody with altered visitation rights. In any case, the judge will make the decision based on what he or she perceives to be the best option for your child.

Be Prepared to Make Big Changes

Even if the relocating parent does not intend to take their child with them, child custody could still be significantly impacted. Visitation could be much more difficult to arrange when parents are not within easy driving distance, and shared custody could be even more challenging. One parent might choose to spend summer breaks with their child, saving up all parenting time for one significant chunk each year. Or, parents may try to split custody by weekend visits, if the distance is minimal enough to allow for such an arrangement. In any case, figuring out a new custody arrangement can be extremely challenging, especially if you decide to bring the issue before a New York judge.

If you are dealing with a relocation issue, our firm can help. Contact Empire Law​ to discuss your case with our Yonkers family lawyer.