Divorce cases can become exponentially more difficult if children are involved, since there are issues surrounding child custody, visitation, and support that must be addressed. Once a final order of custody is put in place, it can become very hard for the primary care parent (PCP) to relocate out of town with a child. But, it is not impossible.
Relocation Stipulations in Custody Agreements
Let’s assume that you were granted residential custody of your child during divorce, and your ex has visitation rights that allows them to spend a certain amount of time each week with the child. Your agreement should contain language stipulating where each parent can live, or how far away from their current city they can move. This kind of stipulation is included in custody agreements in an attempt to allow the non-custodial parent to continue to foster a relationship with their child.
Included in custody agreements are stipulations outlining whether or not a parent can relocate, and how far they are allowed to move. If attempting to relocate outside of the previously agreed upon distance, the party wishing to move must file a Petition for the Modification of a Custody.
Talk to Your Ex First
Before filing a modification petition, it is a good idea to meet with your ex and discuss your desire to relocate with your child. The courtesy of doing so not only reflects an attempt at successful co-parenting, but may also keep the two of you from entering into a contested relocation and visitation battle in the court room. Agreeing on a new custody or visitation terms can make your petition for modification much easier and less expensive.
In the landmark case of Tropea v. Tropea, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that decisions on relocation requests must be made on an individual basis, taking into consideration all facts specific to each case. A judge must take many factors under advisement before ruling on a relocation petition, some of which may include:
- The reason why a parent wants to move (job opportunity, new marriage, etc.)
- How relocating a child will impact their relationship with the non-custodial parent (NCP) or their extended family
- Whether or not the move will benefit the child emotionally, mentally, or physically
- The monetary cost, or amount of travel time, it will take for the child and NCP to maintain their current visitation schedule.
Ultimately, the decision on whether or not a PCP is allowed to relocate with their child will come down to what is in the child’s best interest. For example, let’s say you have residential custody of your child. You become romantically involved with another person who lives in a different state, and the two of you get married. Despite your new marital status and desire to be with your spouse, you may not be allowed to move your child across state lines if it will greatly impair the relationship between the child and other biological parent.
Alternatively, a judge may rule in your favor if you are seeking permission to relocate with your child because of a new and more fruitful job opportunity. The promise of a higher salary and better standard of living may be enough to convince a court to modify a custody and visitation order, because the child will directly benefit.
Create a New Parenting Plan
A parenting plan is a document that outlines child custody, visitation, and financial support obligations (not including child support), and are agreed upon between parties prior to any final orders being ruled on by a judge. Since relocating will put a kink in a current parenting plan, both parties and their attorneys will need to work together to develop a new plan.
A common stipulation found in parenting plans that have been changed due to relocation of the child is extended visitation time with the NCP. These visits usually take place over summer vacation, or holiday breaks from school. For instance, since the NCP’s weekend overnight visits will not be possible once the child relocates, he or she will be awarded visitation time over spring break, summer vacation, and a couple major holidays.
Since every custodial dynamic is different, modified parenting plans will change depending on your individual case specifics. It is always best to be cooperative and open minded with your ex, to avoid expensive litigation. Retaining an experienced family law attorney can be incredibly beneficial, and will help to ensure that your modification petition results in a positive and favorable outcome for all parties involved.
Post-Judgment Modification Attorneys
At Brian D. Perskin & Associates P.C., we understand how intimidating the court system can be, especially with sensitive matters like post-judgment modifications and relocation cases. This is why we strive to make the process as seamless and stress-free for our clients as possible. Whether you’re faced with the possibility of losing precious parenting time, or need to relocate with your child, we’re here to help. For more information, or to schedule a free consultation, call 718-875-7584 today!