Can a Custodial Parent Relocate After a New York Divorce?

There are many reasons to move after a divorce. Troubling economic times mean that relocating for a job can be a necessity. With high unemployment, many parents need family members to watch children; it is even becoming more common for adults with their own children to move in with aging parents. Finding affordable housing may be troublesome once a divorced parent is on a single income. In other cases, a custodial parent may wish to relocate in order to provide for better schooling for his or her child.

Whatever the reason for the move, relocating after divorce involving children can be complicated. The divorced custodial parent can't simply pack up and go. He or she must get approval from a judge before leaving town, because the court must ensure the move will not have an unnecessary negative impact on the relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent.

A court decides whether to allow a parent to relocate according to the best interests of the child. The court considers any and all factors it finds relevant to the best interests of the child, which include:

  • Each parent's reason for either wanting or opposing the move, including whether those opinions are held in good faith
  • The relationship between the child and each parent
  • The ways in which the child's life will be enhanced by the move, including the child's economic, emotional and educational situation

Even if the move reduces the non-custodial parent's access to the child, the relocation may still be allowed, so long as the reasons for the move are justified. In addition, a court may be more likely to allow relocation if the custodial parent agrees to a plan that helps the other parent make up for lost time. For example, a court may give extra time to the non-custodial parent during school vacations or allow for parenting time through social media and Skype.

An Attorney Can Help

Essentially, whether a custodial parent can move out of town depends upon that parent proving to the court that it is in the best interests of the child. This means proving that the child's life will be enhanced in some way, and that it will not negatively affect the relationship with the non-custodial parent. Because approval depends upon the unique circumstances of the family, New Yorkers considering relocation after a divorce should contact an experienced family law attorney to discuss their options.