Navigating Relocating with Children & Well-Crafted Custody Agreements

The complexities surrounding divorce and separation can be heightened when children are involved. With that in mind, one of the most challenging situations is when a former spouse desires to relocate with the children. This blog will discuss a case where this happened and what occurred during the contested legal battle. Additionally, we will review the value of a well-written custody agreement that includes provisions addressing relocation radius. 

Tropea v Tropea

Though we don’t usually bring up previous cases and decisions, this one is important because of how easily people may identify with it. In Tropea v Tropea, two people were married in 1981. They had a child in 1985 and another in 1988 before divorcing in 1992. The court incorporated their previously executed separation agreement when the divorce was finalized. The mother was the primary caregiver, but the father had visitation rights where he had the kids three days a week plus holidays. 

In 1993, the mother wanted to relocate to the Schenectady area, about two and a half hours away. Even though the mother offered a “liberal” visitation schedule that allowed the children to see their father, the previously established mid-week visits would be impossible because of the distance. The father has shown that he was committed to being in the children’s lives and coached their football and baseball teams. (During the case, it was also brought up that the father said negative things about the mother in front of the children.)

The presiding Judge Hearing Officer (JHO) initially denied the mother’s relocation request. The father argued that the mother chose to relocate because she was marrying someone from the Schenectady area. He didn’t think he should lose time with his kids because of her decisions. The judge denied the request because no “exceptional circumstances” forced the move. However, she appealed and won. The reasoning was that the move didn’t prevent the father from having “regular and meaningful access to his children.” 

The Importance of Custody Agreements

Despite the mother not being “forced” to move away with the kids, she was still allowed to do so. Whereas there were exceptional circumstances, the mother won because the children’s time with the father could still be valuable and meaningful. The takeaway is that you must work with an experienced attorney who will develop a robust custody agreement that complies with New York’s laws and regulations. 

These will often dictate specific requirements and procedures for relocation cases. A well-crafted custody agreement should address physical custody and visitation schedules, but they should encompass more than that. At its core, it must identify each parent’s parental rights, responsibilities, and decision-making authority—even when they face relocation. These decisions often include the following:

  • Education 
  • Health care
  • Religious upbringing
  • Extracurricular activities

Meet with Attorney Andrea Gamalski Working through the complexities of relocation cases can be emotionally and legally challenging. When you work with our firm, you will have access to our extensive experience and comprehensive understanding of New York’s family laws. We guide parents like you through the intricacies of drafting a custody agreement that considers contingencies such as relocation. Contact our office today to schedule your consultation.

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Andrea L. Gamalski Attorneys at Law

Andrea L. Gamalski understands how important it is to have a compassionate and empathetic family law attorney who fights hard for their clients in the courtroom–mainly because she’s been one of these clients herself.

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