Child Custody and a Parent’s Need to Relocate: 3 Things to Know

Mother and her child

The entire process of dividing one household into two during a divorce or family law case involves a great deal of decision-making and stress, but most parents would agree that nothing matches the decisions related to child custody. Over the years, our Westchester child custody lawyers have guided countless clients to take many factors into account when negotiating issues such as physical custody and parenting time. However, when the parent with physical custody has to move and relocate the residence of their child for work, education or other reasons, things become complicated and any custody arrangement or agreement will most likely fall apart.

Though relocations are common, they often will require court approval.

Here are some common considerations for parents seeking to relocate:

  1. Parents With Primary Physical Custody Often Retain Custody After a Move

Generally, New York Court will permit a child's residence to be moved out-of-state only after it has determined that the move serves the best interest of the child. In making this determination, the courts look at a wide array of factors to decide whether the parent with physical custody can retain that role. Some of the factors used to make this decision include:

  • The relationship of the child with both parents, siblings and other significant persons in the child's life.
  • The child's needs based on age and developmental stage, as well as how those needs will be affected by a move.
  • The ability of the non-relocating parent to preserve a relationship with the child based on logistical and financial considerations.
  • The preferences of any child who is mature enough to contribute to the decision.
  • The overall benefits of making the move to the relocating parent and child.
  1. Non-Relocating Parents Have Rights

The relocating parent bears the burden of proof to show the courts that the move is in the best interests of the children. If they fail to make the requisite showing, their request to relocate will be denied. However, it is important to realize that this is not a one sided process. The non-relocating parent usually has a full opportunity to present a case opposing the move. Often they will present evidence to address the many factors outlined above.

  1. Cooperation & Renegotiation Can Serve the Best Interests of the Children

Moving and relocating a child’s residence out of state presents an entirely new set of issues and concerns that are very different from the experience of working out an initial custody arrangement. Clearly, any change that may possibly require parents to see the children less frequently can be emotionally-charged. Of course, arrangements can be made to extend the length of each visit, with ample virtual visitation available over the phone or via video in between visits. Often, parents who have become accustomed to sharing time with their children might consider a variety of options, and be more willing and able to negotiate new terms for custody and visitation.

While ultimately, the final child custody decisions remain in the hands of the courts, parents who can present new viable parenting plans and have the ability to work together in the best interests of their children, have the best chance of arriving at a solution that is most appropriate for themselves and the entire family.

Stephen J. Riebling, Jr. and Marcia Payton are family law attorneys at Riebling & Payton, PLLC, located in Westchester County, NY with nearly 50 years of combined experience. To learn more about them, the firm and their approach please visit Riebling & Payton, PLLC at

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