I wrote an article for the New York Women’s Bar Association. Clients and colleagues may find parts of it, which I have parsed out, useful, as it highlights trends relating to relocation issues in divorce.

The judge who gave the discourse classified the recent trends and broke them down into primary factors and driving forces in the decisions rendered. It appears that Manhattan and the Bronx (both within the First Department of NYS Court jurisdiction) give heavy weight to the following factors:

1. The residential/custodial parent’s willingness to allow liberal visitation, access, and to foster a meaningful relationship between the children and the non-residential parent;

2. The non-custodial parent’s failure to disclose and engaging in subterfuge regarding financial information and/or delayed, erratic or delinquent child support payments; and

3. A strong familial network of contacts and support systems in the area the custodial parent wishes to relocate to.

In contrast, the relocation decisions of the Second Department (Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Dutchess, Orange, and Putnam counties) give emphasis to the residential/custodial parent being able to provide the children with better living accommodations, such as a more spacious house and a backyard, upon relocating—as well as a close connection and positive relationship between the children and the custodial parent’s network of support in the new location, such as a new spouse and/or stepchildren.

A judge’s determination in allowing one parent to relocate with the children, thereby affecting the parenting schedule, used to be predictable and quantifiable—but not anymore. Judges will often look to the recent Appellate Court decisions to determine the court’s direction.

I can guide my clients from experience, precedent, and the above factors. We can get all our ducks in a row from the beginning, putting forth the strongest argument for relocation based on the department we are in and the factors we know that department gives great credence to.

An example of a relocation case I had recently was a wife living in New York, making $100,000 per year, and her spouse, making $60,000 per year. They have 2 children that they’re sending to private school. The wife discovered that if she moved to South Carolina, she could make $40,000 more per year.

This couple had discussed moving while they were married since living in New York is so costly. Now that she wants to get divorced, she realizes she’ll be further stretched for money, as her husband is not committing to paying for private school. The couple has several options: Both could move, or she could move and pay for visitations, or she could stay (foregoing the additional $40,000/year in income). Since she wants to move, I can help her negotiate towards that.

In another example, a husband agreed to pay the wife $10,000 towards her relocation costs; she accepted and moved nearby. It was beneficial for her to move. They were able to maintain the visitation schedule as is. He actually saved money in the long run since he didn’t have to pay for years of fostering visitation, including travel and lodging expenses.

An overarching theme in all departments is when the non-custodial parent has a history of being delinquent in child support payments, it often works against them. In a relocation case, if the custodial parent has the opportunity to offer a better lifestyle and the ability to be closer to other family members, and the non-custodial parent has been remiss in paying child support, the non-custodial parent is likely to have a lower standing in court, and the judge very well may decide to rule in favor of the custodial parent wanting to relocate.

We can put forth the strongest relocation case based on the county (court; department) we are in and the client’s specific needs. If you have questions about your relocation issues, please feel free to contact me.

Cheryl Stein, Esq.
The Law and Mediation Offices of Cheryl Stein
Offices in Manhattan and Brooklyn
Phone: (646) 884-2324
E-mail: cheryl@cherylsteinesq.com